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Crystal Palace and Everton have joined the race to sign the £25 million-rated striker Mariano Diaz from La Liga champions Real Madrid, according to Sport.

There are more sightings of the Loch Ness Monster than the seldom-seen centre-forward these days.

Two months into the La Liga campaign, Mariano has played a grand total of 14 minutes for Real Madrid, with even Luka Jovic’s ongoing malaise failing to open the door for a man whose second spell at the Bernabeu has hardly gone to plan.

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Mariano returned to the Spanish capital in 2018 after hitting 21 goals during a stellar season at Lyon, taking Cristiano Ronaldo’s number seven shirt in the process.

The new CR7 he most certainly was not.

Two years, and just three La Liga starts later, Mariano appears to have finally accepted that his Los Blancos dream is one of the pipe variety – at least he will always have that last-gasp clincher in El Classico.

Sport backs up recent claims suggesting that West Ham United would offer the once-capped Dominican Republic international a fresh start in the Premier League, while also throwing Crystal Palace and Everton into the mix.

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At Selhurst Park, Michy Batshuayi has struggled to get going on loan from Chelsea, admitting himself that his lack of goals is a source of personal annoyance.

Everton, meanwhile, have arguably the hottest striker in England in Dominic Calvert-Lewin but lack of a reliable back-up. Whether Mariano would accept being the bridesmaid again after two years out of the spotlight at Real Madrid is another matter.

Sport adds that Real will still demand an eye-watering £25 million fee for their academy graduate, who commands wages of £70,000-a-week.

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