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13th Jun 2017

Gareth Southgate suggests he could use one of the world’s most expensive defenders out of position

Good idea?

Robert Redmond

Gareth Southgate has hinted at a possible midfield role for John Stones.

Stones is the second most expensive defender in football history, costing Manchester City £47.5m from Everton last summer – a transfer fee that is only eclipsed by David Luiz’s £50m move from Chelsea to Paris Saint-Germain back in 2014.

The 23-year-old, who England’s most comfortable defender in possession, hasn’t exactly convinced since joining Pep Guardiola’s side, making several defensive errors in big games.

Stones is clearly a very good footballer, and he doesn’t need to lump the ball into touch when under pressure to be a good centre-half.

However, few would argue that he still has to sharpen his defensive instincts.

He is first choice for England though, and will surely become a key player over the next decade. Unlike City, England can’t just go and find another player like Stones, so the 23-year-old should, in theory, have more room for error with the national team.

England also aren’t exactly blessed with defenders as they were in the past, when they could select players like Tony Adams, Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry.

So, naturally, Gareth Southgate has been speaking about playing Stones in midfield.

The England manager admitted he has used the player in a defensive midfield role in training, with a view to potentially using him there at some point in a game.

“Well, I think he could do that [role],” Southgate said, ahead of England’s friendly with France on Tuesday night in Paris.

“We had a look at that in training last week, in fact. I also think we want defenders who can bring the ball out and show composure. I think he could do either of those jobs. You’ve asked me if he’s an option there, and I think he is.

“He’s a player who’s very comfortable receiving possession, and has all the attributes and capabilities to play as a holding midfield player. He obviously hasn’t done that yet, really, so that’s a decision we have to make. But do I believe he can play that role? Absolutely.”

Just because Stones can play in defensive midfield, does that mean he should?

He is a good passer, and England are short of players in that position, but it could be argued the player needs as much time in his natural position as possible in order to improve.