John Stones’s ‘defensive grit’ has been questioned by former team-mate Sylvain Distin who also says he cannot see Pep Guardiola making him a better centre-back.
Distin and Stones’ careers overlapped at Everton with the England defender’s first two-and-a-half seasons on Merseyside coinciding with the latter part of the Frenchman’s six-year spell at Goodison Park.
Distin insisted he loves and has a lot of respect for Stones, who is now at Manchester City and with 39 England caps to his name.
John Stones’s (pictured) ‘defensive grit’ has been questioned by ex-team-mate Sylvain Distin
Distin also says he cannot see Pep Guardiola (right) making Stones a better centre-back
The 42-year-old recalled how he used to encourage a young Stones and even remind the rising star that his job when he got his early chances in the Everton team was to do well enough to keep him out of the side.
But, assessing Stones’ progress since then in a candid interview on The Beautiful Game Podcast, Distin reluctantly conceded he has not developed as he expected as a defender.
Toffees favourite Distin said: ‘I’m not sure if he has got that defensive grit. He is an amazing player with the ball, really confident with the ball but that is possibly the modern centre-back. As a modern centre-back, yes he is amazing. Did he fulfil his potential? No.
Distin (bottom right) was speaking about his former team-mate on The Beautiful Game podcast
Distin (centre) and Stones’s careers overlapped while the pair were at Goodison Park
‘He still has a lot to learn and he has to be a lot more consistent. Can he fit in every team? I don’t think so either.
‘He is perfect for Guardiola. Will he be perfect for a team who have to be stronger defensively first and then have less possession? I am not sure he is there yet.
‘Definitely he has all the attributes but I feel like something didn’t click for him yet.
‘He could be much, much better than he is now. When I see that Manchester City would play a midfielder at centre back when they have two or three centre-backs, as a centre-back that would hurt me greatly.
‘That’s my job and you take a midfielder to play in my position? That would hurt me. I don’t know if he doesn’t have the confidence of the manager or if something else but something needs to click with him.’
Guardiola (left) has often deployed defensive midfielder Fernandinho (right) at centre-back
Stones left Everton to join Manchester City in a deal worth up to £50m in 2016 in the same summer Guardiola arrived at the Etihad.
Distin feels that playing for two managers in succession with the approaches that Roberto Martinez and Guardiola has hampered Stones’ development.
Distin, whose 469 Premier League appearances is an English top-flight record for a foreign player, said: ‘We had a very similar manager [at Everton] as he has at City now, a manager that likes to play from the back, no matter what.
‘That means if you make a costly mistake because he is being too confident or trying to force the play from the back he had a manager who said “never mind, you did the right stuff, carry on.”
‘If you make a mistake and your manager says “it’s fine, don’t worry” and the next game or two, three games after you make similar type of mistake and your manager says “no, this is what I want to do, you carry on, I don’t care” you get into a pattern where mentally you feel “it’s ok I can make a mistake. That’s what my manager wants.”’
Distin insisted he has a lot of respect for Stones (right) but questioned his defensive ability
‘Some will feel “that’s brave” but some people will think “I don’t know if it’s brave or stupidity.”
‘When you’re at a place like City it’s okay because they have so much quality but at Everton that would cost us so it’s difficult.
‘I know he reacted well every time but I’m a bit scared that because of the last two managers he has had that put him in that pattern of “it’s ok to make a mistake don’t worry.”
‘With the team and manager they have now he is the perfect player. No disrespect to him, he is a top manager, but will Guardiola make him a better defender? I can’t see it.
‘He will make him a better player coming out from the back with the ball but better defender? I don’t see it happening.’