In typical Ronald Koeman fashion, Everton’s Dutch manager did not mince his words when asked about the prospect of Ross Barkley jumping ship with only a year left on his deal.
“If he doesn't sign that contract then we need to sell the player. It's simple,” Koeman said in quotes reported by the BBC.
Replacing Barkley, however, would be anything but. After a slow start to the season, the England international has made himself indispensable again, notching his eighth assist of the season with a sublime cross for Romelu Lukaku in Sunday’s 4-2 win against Leicester City.
Yet, if Barkley did indeed make the decision to depart his boyhood club, it appears that Everton have already identified a man capable of stepping into the breach.
Though it’s fair to say Greuther Furth playmaker Robert Zulj is hardly the marquee signing fans are craving. According to Goal, the 25-year-old Austrian has attracted interest from Goodison Park, as well as a number of German clubs, after impressing in the second division this season.
Blessed with excellent technique, skilled dribbling and the ability to threat the ball through the eye of a needle, Zulj has scored five and created another two for the side currently sitting in sixth in the German second tier.
As such, the 6ft 2ins playmaker has reportedly attracted interest from the likes of Feyenoord, Borussia Monchengladbach and Galatasaray in the past, though it would still raise eyebrows if Everton were to make him their top summer priority.
Then again, perhaps Everton have learned a lesson from last year. The Daily Star claimed they were scouting RB Leipzig’s £12 million-rated playmaker Emil Forsberg as he helped spearhead their promotion from the second tier.
Now, however, he would be worth twice, perhaps three times as much after a sublime debut campaign in the Bundesliga.
With Zulj, Everton may be better off striking when the iron is hot. And the price tag is relatively low.
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