The lead-up to transfer windows in general are dramatic, with all sorts of names being thrown around. Especially where Everton are concerned, we’ve learned often that it’s likely players’ agents throw out these morsels to the tabloids in a bid to either get their clients improved contracts, or bigger offers from rival clubs.
Especially since Farhad Moshiri has become the majority shareowner and opened the coffers to first Steve Walsh and then now Marcel Brands, the rumours have been wild and far-fetched in many cases. And now that Carlo Ancelotti has taken over the reins at Everton, it seems that the list of players being linked has been taken up a notch or two.
The new manager recently indicated that the Toffees would only be looking to add a couple of players to the squad over the January transfer window, and squad needs look like those will be at the central defender and defensive midfielder positions. However, that has not stopped the rumour mill from working overtime nor has it limited the supporters’ imaginations.
Below is as close to a comprehensive list as we’ve seen of players, broken down by positional groups, that we’ve seen all over the media being connected with Everton. We’ve also tried to break down each player’s contract situation and likelihood of transfer chances along with a look at their skillset and how they could contribute to the squad this year and beyond.
Josef Bursik - The 19-year-old keeper is on loan at League One Accrington Stanley from Stoke City’s Under-23 side and is making his mark. After sitting on the bench for the first half of the season, he’s taken over as Accy’s starting goalie and is unbeaten in his five appearances so far.
Joao Virginia has struggled mightily in his loan spell at Reading, and the Blues interest in Bursik could be valid especially with veteran Maarten Stekelenburg out of contract this season and Jonas Lossl not even on the bench for the last few weeks - presumably injured but there’s no information on his status or whereabouts.
Kalidou Koulibaly - We expected a number of Napoli players to be linked with that being Ancelotti’s former club. The 28-year-old centrehalf is one of the best players in his position in the world, and with three more years to go on his current deal, it will take a ridiculous sum of money to get the Naples side to let him go. Really can’t see this happening, especially in January.
John Egan - The Sheffield United defender is having a stellar season for the Blades, and is a big part of why they’re sitting comfortably in the top half of the Premier League table. His sparkling form has even led to four international caps for the Republic of Ireland. At 27, he’s not exactly a young player, and like we’ve seen with Michael Keane, there is a concern that he might not be at his best outside Chris Wilder’s defensive-minded system.
Egan joined United from Brentford in 2018 on a four-year deal and with just half a season in the top-flight, poses a substantial risk for the kind of outlay it will take to prise him away.
Alessandro Florenzi - The AS Roma cap is a versatile player but is a bit of a puzzling rumour. His current position of choice is right back, though he has played further upfield on the right much like Djibril Sidibe has done for the Blues in recent weeks. The 28-year-old is under contract until 2023, Coleman and Sidibe have the position locked down for this season and with Jonjoe Kenny doing as well as he is in Germany, this link makes no sense.
As for his ability to play as midfielder, the last time he lined up in the middle was back in 2016 and he was pretty poor at the position leading to him being shifted out wide.
Unai Núñez - The 22-year-old central defender is highly rated amongst talent scouts. Over 6ft tall, fearless and comfortable with the ball at his feet, he is considered one of the best products of the Athletic Bilbao academy, much like Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte who he replaced at the Basque side.
The injury crisis at Bayern Munich this season has led to talk that the German giants will be pursuing him actively, and Arsenal have also been previously linked. Latest rumours have West Ham United offering to pay his €30m buyout clause which can be activated any time despite his being under contract until 2023. He’s been in and out of the 7th placed La Liga side’s lineup due to inconsistency, but is definitely one for the future.
Jean-Clair Todibo - The France youth international joined Barcelona a year ago from Toulouse, but has found playing time hard to come by with just three appearances. Barca’s preference is to loan him out to a side playing European football to maximize the number of appearances he can get in the remainder of the year, but the Spanish side also have a good relationship with Everton after the business conducted between the two in the last few years.
AC Milan, Manchester United, Southampton and Watford FC have also been linked with the 20-year-old centrehalf who cost €2m but apparently the Catalan side want €25m now for an outright sale. While highly-rated, the pacy and tough-tackling defender does remain mostly unproven having only played ten times for Toulouse before his switch. Another one for the future.
Jarrad Branthwaite - 17-year-old right-sided centrehalf has been in and out of the Carlisle United lineup this season, but has attracted lots of attention with Arsenal, Everton, Glasgow Rangers and Celtic all scouting him this season. Apparently he can be obtained for just £750,000 in January, but at this stage in his development is very likely headed to the Academy to play for either the Under-18s or the Under-23s.
James Rodriguez - The names don’t come any bigger than the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner. The 28-year-old midfielder is on contract with Real Madrid until 2023, having just returned from a two-year loan spell at Bayern Munich last summer. He’s only started a handful of games this season, but apparently Madrid don’t want to let him go in January, or will sell him for £43million, depending on which Spanish media outlet you’re reading.
Ancelotti has previously worked with the Colombian star at Real and then at Bayern too, and per the tabloids wants him at Everton, despite interest from Arsenal, Inter Milan, Roma, Napoli and Marseille. Rodriguez has missed significant chunks of playing time due to injury in just the last three years, which could explain why he is even available to begin with. The Blues already have an injury-plagued midfield, adding another walking wounded to that list despite his past accomplishments is a risk the Blues will be unlikely to take.
Steven N’Zonzi - It feels like his name comes up linked with Everton every transfer window. Currently plying his trade on loan at Galatasaray after AS Roma paid the princely sum of €26.65m for him in 2018 and then realized how awful he was. Is currently suspended indefinitely by the Turkish side after he “decided to opt-out of training with his team and walked off during a session”. No thank you.
Piotr Zielinski - Is this another one of those Napoli links, or is there something to this rumour? The Poland international is definitely an electric talent and has been compared to Kevin de Bruyne and Aaron Ramsey for his playmaking skills. At 25, he still has his best years ahead of him, but with a year left on his current contract after this year, will not come cheap.
Flexible enough to line up anywhere in a three- or four-man midfield, Zielinski can be considered an upgrade in attacking midfield that can provide incision in the attacking half of the pitch. Not quite the classic #10, he generates a positive volume of shots and key passes per game while retaining his ability to be a midfield cog that links the defence and the forward line (65 passes per 90 minutes!), in the true box-to-box-midfielder vein.
Zielinski is a star in the making for sure, and likely someone Ancelotti goes back for once he decides to move on from Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Jean-Michel Seri - Another defensive midfielder that the Blues have been linked with in the past. The Ivory Coast international hit his peak with Nice in Ligue 1 a couple of seasons ago, and with the world at his feet, chose to make a £25m transfer to Fulham in a move that caught most football fans by surprise. He subsequently struggled to adapt to the English game and was accused often of coasting through games, featuring 34 times as the Cottagers were relegated.
He is currently at Galatasaray for the season, and there have been indications the Turkish side are interested in activating the buy clause in his loan deal. At 28, Seri might be too old to be considered a rehabilitation project and this rumour seems pretty unlikely.
Morgan Sanson - And another midfielder whose name should sound familiar. In fact, there was a point last season when the media were reporting a swap deal with Olympique Marseille for his namesake Morgan Schneiderlin. The 25-year-old is an unremarkable midfielder who would not add any value to this side even as it stands, and the Blues would be much better off blooding their Under-23 stars than actively going for Sanson.
Adrien Tamèze - Yep, you guessed it, another France-based defensive midfielder previously linked to the Blues. Tameze has been linked recently with a number of English sides, with Aston Villa ahead of Southampton and Burnley in the race for the player whose last minute move to Cardiff City fell through last January.
The 25-year-old is in Partick Viera’s doghouse at Nice, and has barely featured for them this season, especially over the last couple of months. Like Sanson above, this would not make much sense.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic - No bigger names than Mr. Ego himself. Luckily he’s taken himself out of the equation by moving to AC Milan and Everton will not have to deal with him.
Lorenzo Insigne - The Napoli talisman had to be one of the first players linked with Everton after Ancelotti’s appointment was confirmed. A product of the Neapolitan’s youth academy, he has been with the club all his life and only left on loan for spells, featuring 324 times and scoring a prolific 81 goals and 72 assists in that time.
Let’s not kid ourselves, he’s not leaving his boyhood club to join Ancelotti, and there’s no way Napoli’s lunatic President Aurelio de Laurentiis lets him go for anything lower than a stupid sum of money with the 28-year-old still under contract until 2022.
The left-sided forward could certainly spark Everton, and even shares a number of characteristics with the diminutive incumbent Bernard, with neither playing the full ninety minutes often. Hard to see the Blues making this move in January.
Dries Mertens - The 32-year-old Belgian forward is a magical footballer, and what Everton wished their one-time Belgian forward Kevin Mirallas would turn into. Mertens is a veritable sparkplug with a lethal eye for goal that has seen him plunder nine goals this season, and 118 goals (plus 71 assists) in six seasons for Napoli, often switching around with Insigne.
With the emergence of Arkadiusz Milik as lead striker he has been pushed into a smaller role while still popping up with key goals. Mertens has one more year on his current deal after the end of this season, and has been very durable for the last few years. Brands doesn’t often go for older players, but the Belgian could be the veteran striking presence the Blues’ forward corps are currently lacking, assuming Cenk Tosun and Oumar Niasse are being packed off in January.
Emmanuel Dennis - The forward whose claim to fame so far in his young career is stumble-scoring a brace at the Bernabeu in the Champions League against Real Madrid and then celebrating a la Cristiano Ronaldo is a bit of a wildcard. He has picked up 15 goals in one and a half seasons for Club Brugge in Belgium, but apart from being a lanky striker with pace, has shown little else to say that at 22 he can be successful in the Premier League or even challenge Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Moise Kean for a spot in the squad.
Josh Maja - Even the French media who reported this think it’s a tenuous rumour. The former Sunderland youth product moved to Bordeaux in January this year, and though has been rounding into form with six goals (three from a hattrick in one game), at 21 he’d find himself way down in the pecking order at the Blues. His move to France was for just £1.5m, and Sunderland will be hoping for a big transfer for the youngster as they stand to profit from a big sell-on clause in his current contract. At this point he’s a better fit for the Under-23s than the senior side.