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EVERTON FC are in a strong position to make Steven Naismith their first summer signing – although nine other clubs are chasing the Scotland forward.
Naismith, 25, could be ready to decide on his future early next week, as he mulls over offers from seven English clubs and two European sides.
The ECHO understands that the Toffees are one of the main contenders for Naismith’s signature, even though they may not be able to match the financial incentives of their rivals.
It seems likely that Ibrox hero Naismith will be a free agent, despite the objection of Charles Green – who owns the new Rangers company and has threatened both the player and his suitors with legal action.
That means the former Kilmarnock forward will be able to command a handsome signing-on fee, although he is also thought to prioritise making the right footballing choice for his career.
Naismith would be able to link-up with his former Rangers strike partner Nikica Jelavic at Everton FC, along with another former team-mate David Weir – who is currently a coach at Finch Farm.
Naismith and Scotland defender Steven Whittaker last week held a news conference to announce that they do not wish to transfer their contracts from the old Rangers.
The forward said then that there was too much uncertainty about which division the club would be playing in next season and that his loyalty was to the old Rangers and not the Sevco consortium.
It now seems certain that the new Rangers will not be admitted into the Scottish Premier League and will play in Division One next season.
Naismith has made 141 appearances for Rangers, scoring 33 goals, but missed most of last season after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in October.
Meanwhile, Jack Rodwell is set to miss out on selection for the London 2012 Olympics Great Britain team.
The Everton midfielder was chosen to unveil the GB strip earlier this year but will be left on the sidelines this summer, after he suffered a series of hamstring injuries last season that cost him a place at Euro 2012.
Rodwell had been hoping to appear at the Olympics despite his injuries but was advised by his club manager, David Moyes, to use the summer break to recuperate instead, and it looks likely that the Scot will get his wish when Stuart Pearce’s squad is announced.
The Everton and England Under-21 midfielder Jack Rodwell has been left out of the Team GB Olympic squad by manager Stuart Pearce, another omission after David Beckham revealed yesterday that he too had not been included in the 18-man group, which has not yet been announced.
Pearce's decision to leave out Beckham, despite including the 37-year-old in his 35-man shortlist this month, captured the headlines yesterday, with the three players over the age of 23 permitted under the rules set to be Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards. Beckham released a statement yesterday, saying that he was "very disappointed" to be left out.
Rodwell, 21, had been one of the faces of the Team GB squad, posing in the Stella McCartney-designed Adidas Team GB strip during last season. He has been plagued by hamstring problems, however, having won his first England caps against Spain and Sweden in November.
Chris Smalling and Kyle Walker, who were kept out the Euro 2012 squad by injury, will also miss out. Their non-availability is what is understood to have directed Pearce towards selecting Richards ahead of Beckham, in order to give himself more defensive cover.
Among the under-23 players, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale are expected to be selected by Pearce when he submits his final 18 to the British Olympic Association.
MAURICE EDU last night dropped a heavy hint he could be the next big-name Rangers star to quit Ibrox.
The American midfielder has yet to return to Glasgow after being given extra time off over the summer by gaffer Ally McCoist.
But after watching several of his team-mates walk out on the club, Edu is set to follow suit by refusing to play in Scotland’s lower leagues.
Skipper Steven Davis, along with Allan McGregor, Steven Naismith, Steven Whittaker and Sone Aluko have already decided to walk away.
And Edu, the subject of a failed £500,000 bid by French side Sochaux last season, is likely to reject the transfer of his contract to Charles Green’s newco and leave Ibrox on a free.
He revealed he’s desperate to test himself at the highest level. And on the day just 13 players arrived at Murray Park, Edu said: “I’m no different than anyone else. You want to go as far as you can in this game and see how far you can go.
“It’s a short career, you know? You want to try to play at the highest levels possible and test yourself against some of the best players.”
Davis and Naismith are ready to land Premiership deals. Record Sport understands former skipper Davis is set to move to Southampton while Naismith is on the verge of a move to Everton where he will join up with fellow Scot Davie Moyes and former Rangers striker Nikica Jelavic.
The Championship runners-up last season are desperate to stay in the top flight and Saints manager Nigel Adkins feels the addition of the former Ibrox skipper would help them stay among the big boys.
Blackburn are also keen on Whittaker with Scots boss Steve Kean hopeful of bringing him and Naismith to Ewood Park this summer.
Stoke are poised to sign 21-year-old midfielder Jamie Ness following his decision to reject a move to the newco.
McCoist will have been delighted to hear 13 players turned up for pre-season training.
Experienced trio Lee McCulloch, Lee Wallace and Kirk Broadfoot plus keepers Neil Alexander and Scott Gallacher are among those to have clocked in.
Murray Park graduates Kyle Hutton, Ross Perry, Kal Naismith, Darren Cole and Kane Hemmings are also confirmed attendees.
Free agents Andrew Mitchell, Salim Kerkar and Chris Hegarty – whose contracts expired at the end of the season – also reported for fitness tests and their immediate future remains unclear.
The club said Dorin Goian and Alejandro Bedoya were not due back today while Edu and Carlos Bocanegra were also given extra time off after playing for the USA in World Cup qualifiers.
And Perry said: “I’ve been here since I was 11 or 12 years old and Rangers have been there for my whole football career.
“They’ve been great to me and I think I owe them.
“I played a little bit last season but I think I’ve got a lot more to give. Hopefully over the next season or two I can do that.”