As Tom noted earlier, John Stones has reportedly handed in a transfer request.
At this time, details remain somewhat unclear. Has he been forced to sign the request, as may have been the case when Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini were sold? If not, what has caused Stones to take this step? Will the club cave in?
If Stones does go, the mood among the supporters will be undoubtedly sour. After weeks of insisting the English defender was not for sale, a quick reversal would scream of the sort of malfeasance we've come to suspect of the board.
If Stones' departure is inevitable, that puts a ton of pressure on Everton's manager, Roberto Martinez. Martinez is a positive manager, but it will be tough to put a pleasant spin on these events with words alone. The only way he will be able to turn the mood at Goodison Park around will be to bring in quality players with the money earned from the Stones sale.
In such a scenario, Martinez would likely have around £40 with which to work to bring new players to the club (provided he is given access to all or most of the profit by the board.)
Despite a decent start, the Toffees still have significant holes in the squad to fill, and that much money would go a long way to restoring both the squad and the faith of the supporters, if utilized properly.
If Martinez can bring in three or four players with the hypothetical Stones cash before the deadline ends, and each of those players contributes this season, he will look like an absolute hero. The board will be vilified no matter what, that is a foregone conclusion if Stones is sold.
But, if Martinez turns the move into something positive, or at least not completely detrimental to the club, his image will become that of a brilliant manager who has worked wonders despite being backed by a board who is incompetent at best and malevolent at worst. That reputation more or less followed David Moyes during his tenure on Merseyside, and though his lack of ambition at times frustrated supporters, there can be little doubt that Moyes did well during his time at Everton.
What Martinez cannot afford, if Stones is sold, is to not spend any money before the deadline, or perhaps even worse, to spend it on players who end up not working out for the club. Martinez's transfer history at Everton has been a series of highs and lows--Romelu Lukaku and James McCarthy have shone for the club, but Antolin Alcaraz, Aiden McGeady, and Christian Atsu all have fallen flat at Goodison.
If Martinez brings players in that do not work out, an already displeased fan base could completely turn on the Spaniard. Misplaying the coming weeks puts Martinez at risk of being lumped in with Everton's already disparaged board, something he can ill afford during a time of crisis.
If John Stones is sold, Martinez will have a chance to prove his worth as a manager and put himself firmly in good standing with Everton supporters. If he makes even a slight misstep though, things could get ugly quickly for Roberto Martinez.