John Stones’ future at Manchester City has been thrown into further doubt amid reports Pep Guardiola wants to sign Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci.
Stones was considered one of the most promising young centre-backs in the country when City signed him for £48m from Everton in 2016 – but he has struggled to live up to his potential.
The 25-year-old has started just 10 of City’s 27 Premier League games this season, with manager Guardiola preferring midfielder Fernandinho as his first-choice centre-back during Aymeric Laporte’s long spell out with a knee injury.
And it looks like Stones’ days at City could be numbered, with Guardiola set to swoop for Bonucci in the summer, according to the Daily Star.
The 32-year-old Italy international would offer huge experience to a defence that has has struggled this season without the imperious Laporte.
Guardiola’s first-choice partner for Laporte for the big games last season was club legend Vincent Kompany, who left last summer and as not replaced – leaving City short of top-class centre-halves.
Stones has been in the spotlight for big mistakes – the most recent leading to a goal for Aston Villa that in City’s Carabao Cup final triumph.
Fernandinho has impressed enough as a makeshift centre-back to be offered a new deal, but City have missed the Brazilian’s calming presence in front of the defence.
The 34-year-old has most often been paired with Nicolas Otamendi, who has also struggled to convince.
Bringing in Bonucci would shore up the rearguard and introduce the kind of experience needed to help bring on promising young central defenders Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis, while allowing Fernandinho to return to City’s midfield.
Bonucci is contracted to Juventus until 2024, but he may be tempted by a new challenge given that the Serie A giants also have Matthijs de Ligt, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele Rugani and Merih Demiral competing for a centre-back berth.
Stones, meanwhile, has a contract with City until 2022 – but if he doesn’t find the kind of focus and consistency Guardiola has been looking for, he could find himself leaving the club before then.