Stones Joins Man City as Most Expensive English Defender
MANCHESTER, England — John Stones became the second most expensive defender in football history on Tuesday, joining Manchester City for 47.5 million pounds ($62 million) as the latest solution to the club’s defensive issues.
Embarrassingly for City, the club was beaten to the announcement of its latest high-profile signing by UEFA, which listed Stones in the English team’s squad for the Champions League playoff round about 45 minutes before City tweeted the centre back had joined.
Stones, who signed a six-year deal, is second behind David Luiz in the all-time list of the game’s most expensive defenders — despite not being a regular at former club Everton last season. Luiz joined Paris Saint-Germain from Chelsea for 50 million pounds in 2014.
City regards Stones as one of the best young defenders in Europe and was keen to make another expensive attempt to improve its back line, after spending an estimated 60 million pounds on Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi over the past two seasons. Neither of those players has looked assured, and City is still heavily reliant on injury-prone captain Vincent Kompany.
“I know it will be tough getting a place in this team,” the 22-year-old Stones said, “but I’m determined to become the best player I can be and help us to success.”
Stones is City’s eighth signing under new coach Pep Guardiola, and his arrival took the club’s off-season spending to around $200 million.
He is a tall defender with composure, a good technique and is comfortable on the ball — Stones has been compared to former Man United and England centre back Rio Ferdinand — but has been criticized by some pundits for his languid style and he made mistakes at Everton last season.
Stones was selected in England’s squad for this year’s European Championship but didn’t make an appearance.
“We want to help John show his quality with us and improve on what he has already achieved,” Guardiola said. “I like the way he plays the game.”
Stones, who had a transfer request at Everton rejected last year following repeated bids by Chelsea, has been heavily linked with City since the end of last season. But he still hadn’t officially joined City by the time UEFA listed Stones in the team’s squad for the Champions League playoff round against Steaua Bucharest. The first leg is in Romania next Tuesday, before the return match on Aug. 24 in Manchester.
UEFA required playoff-round clubs to submit a list of eligible players by 2200 GMT on Monday. Champions League rules let one more newly signed player be added to the list by 2200 GMT on the day before the first-leg match.
City’s defence has struggled without Kompany, who has been injured for long spells in recent seasons and is currently sidelined with a groin problem. Guardiola may have decided he cannot rely on the Belgium international to be fit, choosing to bring in Stones to improve his options.
Mangala, signed for a reported 42 million pounds in 2014, wasn’t included in City’s squad for the Champions League fixtures, leaving his future at Etihad Stadium in the balance.
City starts the Premier League season at home to Sunderland on Saturday.