Manchester City are prepared to pay up to pounds 50million to land John Stones and are confident of signing the defender in time for him to return from a post-Euro 2016 break to join in pre-season training with them.
Everton have placed the pounds 50?million valuation on Stones, but that has done nothing to deter City and a firm bid is expected to be placed imminently.
Pep Guardiola, the new City manager, has earmarked Stones as a key part of his revolution and his determination to get the 22-year-old was strengthened by Aymeric Laporte’s decision to stay at Athletic Bilbao.
Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea have also been chasing Stones, but City are confident that their willingness to spend so big on the England international has effectively made it a one-horse race for his signature.
City also believe Stones has already made his mind up that he wants to move to the Etihad, with sources in the England camp claiming it was an open secret during Euro 2016.
Stones did not play a single minute in the tournament, which was seen as one of the catalogue of errors made by Roy Hodgson because he had been England’s best defender in the warm-up games.
City are likely to start the bidding at under pounds 50?million, but have not balked at the idea of going that high.
Stones will comfortably become the most expensive defender in English history, as his fee will outstrip the pounds 34?million Manchester United spent on Rio Ferdinand in 2002.
Chelsea failed with four bids for Stones last year, the highest of which was pounds 37?million, and new Everton majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri wanted to hold on to the player again. But Moshiri has been convinced it will not do the player or the club any good to keep him against his wishes again.
Even though he did not play, Stones has around three weeks off after being at the Euros with England.
While Everton are resigned to losing Stones, Moshiri is determined to do everything he can to keep striker Romelu Lukaku at the club.