While stepping away from England duty may have been a heart-wrangling thing for John Terry to do, the decision has benefitted Chelsea immensely over the course of the season.
Without the distraction of Three Lions representation, the Blues skipper has performed beyond his years in partnership with Gary Cahill, keeping the Stamford Bridge club on the trail of a 9/2-rated Premier League title.
At 33-years-old the number 26 shirt is not going to be Terry’s for much longer and Chelsea are beginning to accept that fact in their recruitment process.
Kurt Zouma has already arrived from St Etienne, but with David Luiz’s future uncertain it would leave Cahill as the only centre-back in the prime of his career at the west London club.
That’s why John Stones’ impressive debut campaign with Everton is catching the Blues’ eye.
Stones, a £3m signing by David Moyes from Barnsley, is an outside tip to make Roy Hodgson’s England World Cup squad at 12/1 and has started all of the Toffees’ last eight matches.
With Roberto Martinez’s men on the charge to the top four – they are 11/10 to end the season there – Stones’ performances have been integral as the club have won seven times and shipped just once in his last four outings.
Zouma’s capture points to a more youth-based transfer policy at Chelsea in the future and at 19, Stones certainly fits that bill.
His early exposure to the Premier League at Goodison Park will be another obvious feather in his cap and a partnership with Zouma could set Chelsea up defensively for the foreseeable future.
A demonstration of comfort on the ball has become apparent as Stones’ top-flight appearances have racked up, which has also alerted the attention of possession-loving Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, although Chelsea are favoured to land the player’s signature.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £50 in free bets.