Everton defender John Stones has handed in a transfer request in an attempt to force through a move to Chelsea.
After three failed bids – the last in excess of £30million – from the Stamford Bridge club, it is understood the England international has now taken matters into his own hands and formally expressed his desire to leave.
Everton have been resolute in their determination to hang on to the highly-rated 21-year-old and manager Roberto Martinez has insisted throughout the saga the centre-back is not for sale.
Martinez, who is becoming increasingly weary of having to field questions about Stones, refused to even discuss what the club’s response would be should the player hand in a transfer request when he was asked about it on Tuesday.
“There is nothing to comment on that,” he said.
“Once more, it is always the same question and always the same answer.
“The only thing that matters now is the game we have in front of us. There is nothing to announce or discuss.
“I know it is your job to keep asking the same question and unfortunately it is my job in this case to always give you the same answer.”
Having so far steadfastly, robustly rebuffed Chelsea’s approaches for Stones, who joined from Barnsley for £3million in January 2013, Everton now find themselves in something of a predicament.
Sanctioning a departure now would undermine their previous apparent show of strength in insisting the player, who has four years remaining on his contract, is not for sale.
It would also leave them with just one senior centre-back – captain Phil Jagielka – having allowed Sylvain Distin and Antolin Alcaraz to depart in the summer, and with just a week left of the transfer window there is hardly any time to find a replacement of equal standing.
Martinez faced a similar situation in his first summer in charge when former Everton boss David Moyes made a sustained attempt to take Leighton Baines to Manchester United with him.
Baines, having spoken to Martinez and chairman Bill Kenwright, did not agitate to leave and has subsequently admitted he “sat on the fence and saw how the thing played out”.
Everton resisted United’s financial might and six months later the left-back signed a new contract.
Stones’ situation is different in that he has now actively asked to leave, but if Everton refuse to budge then Martinez will be left having to manage an unhappy player, one of his first-choice centre-backs and a cornerstone of the defence, until at least January when the window opens again.