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EVERTON FC have not received any contact from Manchester United despite persistent speculation the Red Devils want to sign Leighton Baines this summer.
Reports surfaced yesterday claiming Old Trafford chief executive David Gill had opened negotiations with Bill Kenwright over a deal for the England defender, but that is not the case.
It is not the first time national newspaper stories have linked Baines with a switch to United.
Rumours began again last month after the emergence of one errant report that Alex Ferguson was weighing up a £5m bid – on the morning the Toffees damaged the his Premier League title hopes by holding United to a 4-4 draw on April 22.
But the ECHO believes Baines, who has three years left on his current deal, is not pushing for a Goodison exit – and sources close to United have cast doubt over whether he is a bona fide target.
Ferguson does need cover for Patrice Evra, 31, with left-back Fabio Silva set to be allowed to join Benfica on loan next term.
But with the Scot planning to strengthen his squad in a number of areas, it remains to be seen whether he would be willing to pay in excess of £15m for a player only four years younger than respected France international Evra, who managed 47 appearances last season.
Equally, Baines – rated as second only to Ashley Cole in terms of the best English left-back – could be reluctant to accept a place on the bench at Old Trafford.
That might change if the Blues’ financial circumstances lead them to accept a high bid for the player they signed from Wigan Athletic in 2007, and if Baines is given guarantees about playing time at Old Trafford.
Everton’s summer transfer policy remains unclear for the time being, with David Moyes on holiday and unsure about his budget.
The transfer window does not reopen until June 1, and their priority remains a permanent deal for Steven Pienaar – but the Blues look likely to have to sell before they can buy, which will further lend credence to speculation around Baines.
However, tough negotiator Kenwright would not be willing to accept anything but huge bids for the club’s key saleable assets, and the asking price for Baines could be enough to deter supposed interest from United and Bayern Munich.
PHIL NEVILLE has reiterated his commitment to Everton FC – despite long-term ambitions to pursue his coaching dream.
The Toffees skipper was heavily linked with a role in the England coaching set-up under new boss Roy Hodgson, but instead his brother Gary was unveiled last week.
Neville, 35, has praised the appointment of his older brother, as he sets about completing his own UEFA A licence coaching course this summer; however, for now he is determined to complete another campaign as an Everton player next season.
“It was an honour to be linked but there was no approach,” revealed the player, who made 36 appearances for the Toffees last term. “I am still a player. I think it would have been impossible for me to do it.”
Neville’s first taste of senior coaching came in February, when he was invited to join England’s Under-21 set-up for their Euro 2013 qualifier against Belgium.
The experience only whetted the former Manchester United player’s appetite to pursue a future within the game, and he is beginning to realise the levels of focus required to coach at the highest levels.
“To go away with the Under-21s was an amazing opportunity,” he said. “I see David Moyes and other managers being obsessed with detail and sometimes think, ‘switch off’, but you can’t.
“Those three days were a perfect learning experience. It also made me realise what a special thing being involved for your country was.”
Neville’s enthusiasm was clear on Tuesday when he said on social networking site Twitter: “Day one (of the course over). Just finished – lots of learning and practical work... I’ve got the bug for this and loving being out of my comfort zone.”
He then added yesterday: “Morning all another gorgeous day 9am start in classroom then on to field working on possession today and how to play out from the back!
“Morning session done, 30 mins rest then back out on field for individual coaching practices. 20 mins each – mine is attacking starting in defensive third!”
Meanwhile, Neville has revealed his enthusiasm about England’s new £105m national football centre St George’s Park.
Speaking after a tour of the facility in Burton-on-Trent, the 59-cap former England international said: “Last summer, Everton went to a camp in Austria. Why? The facilities were brilliant, the pitches were first class. But now we have got a facility like this, maybe more clubs would think about staying at home.
“It is exciting for English sport,’ said Neville. ‘In four years’ time, this is not going to guarantee England win a European Championship. But in 10 years, who knows?
“The work that Stuart Pearce and Noel Blake have done with the age groups shows there is a structure in place. It is small steps but it is all there for the new manager to utilise. There can be continuity now, just like in Germany. This is a place that will be inspirational.”