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Plenty of transfer interest in English defender

Michael Keane’s signature is going to be hotly contested

Middlesbrough v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Now that Burnley defender Michael Keane has come out in the open and said that he will be leaving the club at the end of this season, more and more Premier League clubs are starting to express their interest.

Everton manager Ronald Koeman has never been shy about expressing his admiration for the defender. This quote was from a couple of weeks ago when Burnley visited Goodison Park.

“He is one of the defenders really involved in the season of Burnley.

“It’s not easy to score, it is not easy to create against them. I think he’s one of the young centre-backs with a great future in front of him.”

The Dutchman had declared his interest in signing Keane in January too, but no official bid was lodged with the Clarets at the time. Sean Dyche had then reportedly told Keane that he would be sold in the summer no matter what, which is likely why nothing happened in January.

Everton could use a young centerback with promise - club captain Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams will be 35 and 33 before the start of the next season. Ramiro Funes Mori is younger, but is not expected a regular starter. The youth pipeline has an overwhelmed Matthew Pennington and enigmatic Mason Holgate, and that’s about it.

If anything, the Toffees will need at least two center halves, one of whom will have to be ready to play at the top level right now. The only two players who fit that billing in the Premier League currently are Keane and Virgil van Dijk, and both will be hotly contested in the summer transfer window.

Hull City v Burnley - Premier League
Michael Keane of Burnley celebrates scoring a goal
Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

Keane is 24 years old, contract expiring in a year, English-born, well-built, ball-playing center back, what’s not to like? Now we’re hearing that there’s a few clubs in the top six who are starting to pay attention too.

The player came through the famed Manchester United youth system, and left the club first on loan and then on a permanent deal with the Clarets after getting disillusioned by the lack of playing time under Louis van Gaal, having played in only one senior game under him.

Jose Mourinho has seen injuries derail Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo this season, and would love Keane’s durability - he’s missed one game all season.

ESPN claim that Keane will need some convincing to return to United after his acrimonius departure, but also go on to say that the player is managed by Rio Ferdinand’s New Era sports management and could expedite the process in the Red Devils’ favour.

Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have very settled defences and are unlikely to go shopping for Keane, but Manchester City and Liverpool on the other hand are also likely suitors.

Pep Guardiola’s search for ball-playing defenders has led him to make questionable purchases and even more dubious tactical decisions this season. With John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi as starters, City will be looking at grabbing Keane.

Same for Liverpool, who are struggling to find a top class back to pair up with Joel Matip, having cycled through Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan.

If Everton really had a chance to sign Keane in the January transfer window, then they will really rue not pulling the trigger. It is almost guaranteed at this point that there will be a tenacious bidding war on Keane, likely to end in an astronomical purchase price for the player that a side with multiple needs like Everton cannot lavish on just one position.