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Everton in race for one of Serie A’s brightest defensive prospects

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Marash Kumbulla is a very highly touted defender plying his trade at Hellas Verona

Hellas Verona v US Sassuolo - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Hellas Verona’s young central defender Marash Kumbulla is setting scouts’ hearts a-flutter with his recent performances for the Serie A side who sit above more illustrious opponents AC Milan and Napoli in the table, just two teams interested in his services.

The 19-going-on-20-year-old right-footed centrehalf was born in Italy but remains true to his Albanian roots and recently made his national team debut as well. For Verona he has featured 13 times so far, scoring once as well as being in the backline for four clean sheets. This is his first season in the top flight having worked his way up from the youth system.

New Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti was rumoured to have inquired about the defender while he was still in Italy, while Juventus and Inter Milan have also scouted Kumbulla and the latter side along with Napoli reportedly having started negotiations already.

The pricetag for the youngster is said to be about £20 million (€25 million), with his current contract valid until the end of the 2012-22 season. Kumbulla’s Verona side are the fourth best team in the league in terms of goals conceded, with the lanky defender a key component of the defence.

Among English sides, Manchester United have previously scouted the player and Chelsea are the latest club to have watched him with reports that the Stamford Bridge side are not looking to activate their £40m buyback clause for AFC Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake. With Kurt Zouma continuing to underwhelm, Chelsea are in the market for a centrehalf and their decision could have a knock-on effect for the Toffees, with both Ake and Zouma of some interest to the Merseyside outfit.

Everton’s needs at the centrehalf position are well-known with Yerry Mina, Mason Holgate and Michael Keane occupying the first three squad spots, and no one else behind them. First Marco Silva, then Duncan Ferguson and Ancelotti did not deem any of the youngsters in the youth system worthy of a matchday squad spot likely ensuring that the Blues will be looking to bring in at least one central defender during the January transfer window.

In his address to the club’s Annual General Meeting yesterday, Director of Football Marcel Brands had indicated that bringing Kurt Zouma back or else signing a replacement was a summer priority, something the Blues failed at on both counts.