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Barcelona's Gerard Pique talks up the potential of Everton's John Stones

The Spanish defender believes that the young star is the new Rio Ferdinand and should be first choice for England.

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For several years now, everyone associated with Everton football club has been talking about the potential of John Stones.

Every week we are treated to him putting in high quality defensive displays in an Everton shirt, as he puts in the type of performances that make a mockery of his young age.

His potential is not something that has been missed by the rest of the football world either, with a number of pundits, players and everyone in between having been talking about him in recent months.

And now Barcelona star Gerard Pique, arguably one of the best defenders currently in world football, has added his voice to that cacophony, likening him to Rio Ferdinand and anticipating he will have a top career.

"Now I think John Stones is a really, really, good player. He will have a good career," he told the Telegraph.

"He's like Rio, a bit. He's young and alongside him they [England] probably need one who is more experienced. Jagielka is injured. But Smalling is playing well at Manchester United."

Given England's failure to properly replace John Terry in the heart of their defence in recent years, there is now surely no debate that Stones should be their first choice for Euro 2016 next summer.

With both him and Smalling both impressing this season, if they continue to perform so well for the rest of the campaign, they must surely be ahead of the likes of Gary Cahill, who is struggling at Chelsea.

Whether manager Roy Hodgson is brave enough, or indeed wise enough to do so, remains to be seen. This international break could determine whether Stones has a big future at the heart of the Three Lions defence.