Stones interest is a gift that keeps giving for stern Everton

66/1

TOP BET

Everton to finish in the top four

Everton’s prospects of returning to their traditional top-eight Premier League station in 2016-17 after successive 11th-place finishes are looking incredibly promising.

In addition to hiring a coach who specialises in such craft in Ronald Koeman, who guided Southampton to seventh and sixth in the past two campaigns, they are expected to not only get rid of one of last term’s weak links but make around £50m in doing so.

The statistics show that the Toffees were actively worse when John Stones played last season, winning 26% of the games that he started (P38 W10 D15 L3) compared to 73% of those that he didn’t (P11 W8 D1 L2).

It wasn’t just win percentage that cast the defender in a bad light either. From December 28 onwards, the Merseysiders kept three clean sheets in the 18 fixtures that the 22-year-old was on the teamsheet for, whereas they obtained six in nine – twice as many in half the matches – when he wasn’t.

Yet despite that extraordinary difference between success without the 22-year-old and struggle with him, his value is somehow perceived to have increased by around 67% from the £30m that Chelsea tried to pay last summer – which seemed excessive then – to £50m with Manchester City leading the bidding.

As if Everton, who are 12/1 to finish in the top four, weren’t already closing in on a ridiculously good deal, the Mirror are reporting that Koeman has found a way to weight it even more in their favour by requesting Wilfried Bony as part of the package.

The Ivorian forward arrived in England in 2013, the same year that Stones moved to Goodison Park, but has done far more to establish himself in the Premier League than the England international, scoring 31 goals in 58 starts to pile on top of his 46 in 62 in the Eredivisie and is yet to peak at 27, so deserves to be far more than a makeweight, especially considering that he cost the Citizens £28m.

The former Swansea net-finder reached double figures for league strikes in five straight seasons across three different leagues and four clubs before getting stuck on the Man City bench in 2015-16, so could prove invaluable to Everton if they cash in on Romelu Lukaku as well as Stones in this window.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.