When looking at the best defenders in the World Cup so far, it has been a bit of a tough task to be honest! On the one hand, there have been teams such as Uruguay, who have kept clean sheets in every game so far. It would seem obvious to go to a defender from a team such as this as they have clearly contributed to their nation’s cause and done their job as perfectly as possible. Players such as Jose Maria Gimenez, for example, who is one of the most picked defenders on our Fantasy World Cup game. On the other hand, you have defenders who have kept things relatively tight at the back but have also popped up to score as well. This kind of rounded performance is what has been approached here – and John Stones tops the lot.
The Man City defender may not have seen his national side keep a clean sheet at the time of writing – though they still have a group game to play on Thursday against Belgium – but he did manage to score twice in England’s biggest ever win at a World Cup Finals tournament when they beat Panama 6-1 on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps more impressively, these were Stones’ first and second goals for England, and they mean he bizarrely now has more World Cup goals than England’s all-time leading goalscorer Wayne Rooney!
Having come through the ranks at Barnsley, Stones’ big-money move from Everton to this year’s Premier League champions Man City raised some eyebrows as a relatively high-profile risk given the £47.5m price tag. That made him the world’s second most expensive defender at the time behind David Luiz when the Brazilian moved to Paris Saint-Germaine from Chelsea (though he would eventually return to Stamford Bridge) for £50m. Stones’ place in the England set-up has rarely been questioned, though at one stage it was considered a possibility that England boss Gareth Southgate may leave him behind this summer in favour of a different defender, with names such as Burnley’s James Tarkowski mooted.
Those murmurings didn’t last too long though, and he is now an established international plying his trade alongside the likes of Chelsea defender Gary Cahill, though this summer has seen him pair up with Leicester City’s Harry Maguire so far with some success. Stones’ culture on the field has been integral to both City and England for some time now, and with the Three Lions having already qualified for the round of 16 he stands a good chance to get at least another couple of caps under his belt before the end of the World Cup.
Next season, it all starts again as he and his Man City team-mates begin the defence of their Premier League crown, having claimed the title at the back end of a record-breaking season.
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