Sky Sports News are reporting that John Stones has formally asked to leave Everton, smoothing the path towards his move to Chelsea.
This is the stuff of nightmares for Everton fans, coming after a summer of sustained interest in the defender from the Premier League champions.
BREAKING: Sky Sources: John Stones hands in transfer request at Everton. #SSNHQ— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) August 25, 2015
Chelsea have already had three bids rejected for Stones, worth a reported £20m, £26m and £30m, with Everton insistent that he isn't for sale. That stance has been significantly weakened by this transfer request (if true) and has subsequently strengthened Chelsea's bargaining position.
Everton are still under no obligation to sell, but they must now balance keeping an unhappy player on their books against selling him for a fee in the region of £40m.
That money is nice, but with a week to go until the transfer window closes the timing is disastrous, leaving the club precious little time to bring in replacements.
This news is also likely to stir up further unrest among the fanbase, already restless at the club's lack of transfer activity and split over its direction at boardroom level.
All in all it is a mess and leaves Evertonians fearing for the club's short and long-term future. As well as hoping this is somehow all a bad dream.