Roberto Martinez is not worried about John Stones leaving Everton this summer, but Tim Howard could be offered a US return.
Stones was the subject of several offers from Chelsea in last summer’s transfer window and is also reported to have been watched by scouts from many of Europe’s top clubs, including Barcelona and Real Madrid.
There have been suggestions that Stones’ representatives are reluctant to enter into talks over a new contract for the England defender at Goodison Park, but Martinez is not worried about losing a player that is already tied down to a long-term deal.
“We have a really good relationship with John’s people because they have got another six players in the first-team squad,” said Martinez. “It’s not an issue.
“He is still on a long-term contract and nothing has changed.
“Any player who performs well in the first team, we are a football club that wants to reward that good work on the pitch and that will never change.”
Martinez believes that, rather than unsettling him, the speculation over Stones’ future in the summer has actually helped him improve – on and off the pitch.
“One hundred per cent, everything that went on in the summer helped John grow as a person and a player,” said Martinez.
“You need to understand the human side of a footballer gets heavily tested in a period like that. You get a lot of influences and some influences were wrong from the outside and they affect you.
“We have seen in many dressing rooms how players get affected and disturbed. I think that John from day one had a really good supportive group of people, especially the players in the dressing room and everyone at the football club to help him. It has been a very important period for his development.
“Psychologically he has become a man in a very short period of time and a footballer who knows how to cope with high-pressure situations and be able to perform on the pitch.
“He is an important player, he is our No.5 and to be No.5 at a club like Everton is quite significant at such a young age.
“And it’s not just the way he is developing as a defender, but the way he is developing as a leader. He’s someone who can affect the players around him.”
Howard to be offered MLS return
While Martinez expects to keep hold Stones this summer, Howard is a target for The Colorado Rapids, according to ESPN.
Howard is under contract until 2018 but has faced increasing criticism over his performances, with Martinez admitting earlier this week it was “impossible to say” whether the 36-year-old would still be at Goodison Park next season.