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Can Everton & Middlesbrough work out mutually beneficial deal?

It appears to be quite straightforward

Everton v Swansea City - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

BACKGROUND

Everton want central defender Ben Gibson, and want to lighten the squad from 38 players to about 25-30.

Middlesbrough want Ramiro Funes Mori and Muhamed Besic to build their squad for a promotion run.

The two clubs meet, work it out with the players’ agents, and we have a mutually-beneficial done deal, right?

Alas, it doesn’t quite work like that does it?

The Telegraph are reporting in their print edition (via HITC) that Boro are looking to put in a bid of £5million for Argentina international Funes Mori who has struggled to win a starting role at the Blues.

Boro took Besic on loan in January last season and he impressed in the Championship, stabilizing their midfield and winning over the fanbase with his work ethic. Meanwhile, Ben Gibson continued to attract the attention of Premier League sides with his composed performances in the Boro backline.

PLAYER PROFILES

At this point, the ceilings of the two Everton players are known. Funes Mori, despite being an Argentina national team defender (how low is that bar?!), is only good for a backup role in the Premier League. His spatial awareness has not improved and he is often caught out of position, needing to make poorly-timed challenges.

Besic is a good midfielder for sustaining pressure and reducing time and space for opponents in the middle of the park. However, the Championship appears to be his level and he is unlikely to upstage either Tom Davies, Idrissa Gueye or even James McCarthy (when fit).

Gibson on the other hand is a former England youth international whose development seemed to stall at Boro. He is already 25 and it’s hard to tell whether he can truly become a Premier League top six level defender, or whether he’s at the level of a younger Phil Jagielka.

Middlesbrough v Everton - Premier League
Romelu Lukaku and Ben Gibson compete for the ball in 2017
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

EVERTON ANGLE

Michael Keane has not lived up to the high expectations that he came to Everton with. While defenders usually take a little longer to hit their peaks, his positioning last season often was poor and it appears he is the kind of defender that needs a better partner to elevate him.

If Funes Mori and Ashley Williams leave, that will leave just Jagielka and Mason Holgate with Premier League experience to line up next to Keane, though youngster Morgan Feeney is looking to make a breakthrough.

Everton have to get a centre-half that is ready to start right away this summer, and quite importantly, he needs to be mobile and able to play the ball at this feet, which takes the pressure off Keane who lacks pace.

Along with Gibson, Aleksandar Dragovic and teen sensation Matthijs de Ligt have been linked as well. de Ligt is certainly going to be the best of that lot, but snapping up Gibson relatively cheaply is a viable short-term strategy too.