LONDON • Chelsea are preparing to make an improved offer in the region of £35 million (S$77 million) for John Stones, after the England defender submitted an official transfer request to Everton on Tuesday.
The formal request raised doubts over whether the centre-back will play in Everton's League Cup second-round tie away to Barnsley, his former club, yesterday.
Over the course of five weeks, Chelsea have had three bids rejected for Stones, the latest of them for £30 million, and are expected to make a fourth offer over the coming days.
The final offer could rise to £40 million including add-ons.
Everton maintain that they do not want to sell Stones, and are expected to reject his request. However, they are braced for an intense battle to retain his services before the transfer window closes next Tuesday.
NO CHANGE IN STANCE
Once more it is always the same question and always the same answer. The only thing that matters now is the game that we have in front of us.
ROBERTO MARTINEZ, Everton manager, on the intense transfer speculation around defender John Stones
Everton manager Roberto Martinez expressed weariness when asked at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday about how he and the club would react if, as it later transpired, Stones submitted a written request.
"There is nothing to comment on that," said the Spaniard. "Once more it is always the same question and always the same answer. The only thing that matters now is the game that we have in front of us."
Martinez added that he would have no concerns about continuing to select Stones between now and the transfer deadline, whether against Barnsley or away to Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League on Saturday.
Stones, 21, is understood to regard Chelsea as the ideal club at which to develop his career as he looks to fulfil his ambitions at club and international level.
The appeal of Champions League football with the Premier League title holders is apparently too great to Stones, who has not represented England at senior level since winning his fourth cap last September.
But he will be restored to the full squad by Roy Hodgson on Sunday for the Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino and Switzerland.
Coincidentally, Everton's first game after the international break is against Chelsea at Goodison Park on Sept 12.
If Stones does leave, Everton would be left with only one senior centre-half, England's Phil Jagielka, in their squad, with less than a week to recruit.
The Toffees, however, expect to have three new signings in place by deadline day - including River Plate central defender Ramiro Funes Mori.
Everton's hard-line stance maintainined a policy that saw them retain Leighton Baines despite strong interest from Manchester United in 2013.
The left-back opted against submitting a transfer request and, six months later, signed a long-term contract at Goodison Park.
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN