Exclusive - Arsenal have told Manchester City to keep them informed about the availability of defender John Stones.
The former Everton defender has 18 months left on his Etihad Stadium contract, but faces fierce competition for places in Pep Guardiola's side from the likes of Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake.
He has been restricted to just three Premier League appearances during 2020/21, and hadn't played a single minute of top flight football since the opening day of the season before last weekend's romping 5-0 win over Burnley. He subsequently kept his place for City's next game against Fulham.
Now, a source has told 90min that Stones may be offered a route out of Manchester, should interest from Arsenal come to fruition. Head coach Mikel Arteta is a big fan of the 26-year-old, and his comfortable demeanour on the ball and calmness stepping out of defence would certainly appear to align with the Spaniard's footballing philosophy.
Stones still considers himself to be England's best option in central defence, but Gareth Southgate has so far opted against calling him up for any of the Three Lions' internationals this calendar year - even though he was a regular in the team that reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.
His current lack of game time, as it stands, would almost certainly rule Stones out of contention for next summer's rescheduled European Championship, something that would have seemed unthinkable early on in Southgate's reign.
Consequently, Stones is considering his options and is hopeful that City will not stand in his way if he chooses to leave, while Arteta is hopeful that Arsenal's board will consider splashing out on him despite the club sanctioning big-money moves for Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba over the summer.
A source reiterated to 90min: “Arteta is a huge fan, and thinks Stones could still be one of the best defenders in Europe. City have clearly moved on and so a move in 2021 looks a realistic option.”
It remains to be seen what sort of deal City would agree to after previously paying Everton £50m for his services in 2016, but it's thought they would want a sizeable chunk of their investment repaid despite the relatively short amount of time remaining on his contract.