Everton's determination to retain John Stones appears only to have hardened in the face of Chelsea reportedly making a third bid for the defender.
The Toffees, who rejected Chelsea's pre-season offers of £20million and £26million for England international Stones, would not comment on reports on Tuesday they had turned down a fresh £30million bid from the London outfit.
But Press Association Sport understands Everton's stance on the matter has not changed – that Stones is not for sale.
That was something stressed last week by their manager Roberto Martinez.
And Stones' club-mate Steven Naismith has emphasised Everton are very much looking ahead to a future with the 21-year-old center-back in the team.
"We definitely want him to stay – he is a fantastic guy and footballer, and a mainstay in our team," forward Naismith told Press Association Sport on Tuesday.
"He has progressed rapidly in the last two years and we want him to continue that under the leadership of the manager (Martinez) and also (Stones' Everton captain and fellow England center-back) Phil Jagielka."
Then asked if Everton could cope with the loss should further bids lead to Stones' departure, Naismith said: "I think the club's stance on it has been pretty straightforward and the manager is looking forward with Stonesey in the team.
"The manager has mentioned wanting to strengthen, and I don't think anyone has ever thought about Stonesey moving on."
Martinez earlier this month said Stones had been affected by Chelsea's interest, but he subsequently praised the player's focus in Everton's opening match of the season, a 2-2 Barclays Premier League home draw against Watford on August 8.
And 28-year-old Scotland international Naismith added on Tuesday: "John has gone about his business day-to-day in training in such a professional manner.
"He has then taken that into the games, because he has been one of the stronger performers in the team since the start of the season."
Speaking about Stones last Thursday ahead of Saturday's 3-0 win at Southampton, Martinez said: "I have said before the player is not for sale and that is the end of it.
"He is very important player for us and we are looking forward to seeing the best of John over the next few seasons, not just the next few weeks."
Speculation of Chelsea returning for Stones has heightened after John Terry was substituted by Jose Mourinho for the first time in 177 Premier League games in Sunday's 3-0 loss at Manchester City and it remains to be seen whether their pursuit of Stones continues.
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