Leighton Baines says want-away Everton defender John Stones has the full support of his team-mates and will have to “pick himself up” after Chelsea failed with several attempts to sign him.
The champions made numerous bids for the former Barnsley centre-back, with the final bid believed to be around £30million, but Everton refused to sell the England international. Stones then submitted an official transfer request in the final week of the summer transfer window in a bid to push the prospective move to Stamford Bridge through, but Everton rejected his request and refused to change their stance on the 21-year-old.
Stones has been criticised by some sections of Everton fans and was abused as he left the pitch in Everton’s Captital One Cup win over his former club Barnsley two weeks ago. And he was later reported to have been left so upset with some of the abuse he received at a service station on the way back from Yorkshire that he was left in tears.
Full-back Baines, 30, though insists that Stones’ reputation with the rest of the Everton squad has been left intact.
“It has been relentless, particularly for John. Seeing him first-hand on a daily basis, it’s been difficult for him to deal with. He’s still a young lad,” Baines told the club’s website.
“It’s dragged on for such a long time and he’ll be happy now to see the end of it. John knows how to play football – he’s being doing it all his life – [but] he hasn’t had to cope with situations like this before.
“It’s John who has to pick himself up now, dust himself down and move forward, and we’ve supported him all the way through it as a Club and inside the dressing room. I think there’s a misconception sometimes – people think that when a footballer hands in a transfer request they do it and go off and play a game of golf or whatever.
“But it’s actually been such a tough thing and, as a young lad, you do lean on other people a bit more for advice at these times.
“I think the true reflection of John has been shown on the pitch – he’s conducted himself brilliantly in the dressing room and he’s performed well in all the games,” added Baines.
“That’s when he’s being himself, that’s when we’re seeing the real John Stones. That’s the guy we all love here.”