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Everton are ready to take England defender Joleon Lescott back to Goodison Park.
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has lost faith in centre-back Lescott, who cost the club a staggering £24million three years ago under his predecessor Mark Hughes.
And that news will spark a January transfer scramble which could allow Everton to snap up TWO top French stars.
Mancini will attempt to bring in a centre-half in January, with his long shopping list including names such as Paris Saint-Germain's French international Mamadou Sakho and summer-window targets Daniel Agger of Liverpool and Newcastle's Fabricio Coloccini.
Toffees boss David Moyes has made no secret of his desire to bring 30-year-old Lescott back to the club, and admitted recently he would be interested in a loan deal in the window if the player became available.
The stumbling block would, obviously, be money - not only that £24m fee but also Lescott's City salary of around £90,000 a week.
The champions would be happy to get a fringe player on such a large wage off the books, but would have to pay part of his salary to facilitate a move to Everton and, ultimately, take a massive loss on the deal, which would prove an embarrassment following the acrimonious way they got their man in 2009.
Lescott though, would be an ideal capture for Moyes, who is desperate to strengthen his squad as he looks to make a concerted push for a Champions League place.
The manager believes Everton now have a very real chance of a top four place, especially if they can bring in a couple of new faces to give the squad fresh impetus.
Moyes wants to keep hold of prize asset Marouane Fellaini in January, despite interest from Chelsea and Manchester United, but would be willing to sell defender John Heitinga in a bid to raise funds - and signing Lescott on loan could allow that to happen.
Heitinga has been targeted by Galatasary, who could pay as much as £7million for the Dutch international and Moyes has already identified a use for the money - TWO French international strikers.
The Mirror understands Moyes has been involved in extensive talks over a deal to bring in striker Kevin Gameiro from Paris Saint-Germain and has also offered around £5million for Toulouse and former France U21 forward Wissam Ben Yedder.
Everton scouts have watched the pair regularly in recent months, and talks are already at an advanced stage with their respective clubs.
Gameiro, 25, has been capped eight times by France, but has fallen out of favour at PSG following the summer signing of Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Coach Carlo Ancellotti will allow him to move on if the club can recoup the £7million they paid Lorient for his services 18 months ago.
Ben Yedder, 22, is top scorer at Toulouse this season with nine goals in 16 games, and has been identified as one of the top young talents in France.
He is available for around £6m, and Moyes believes he can get both men if he raises enough from the sale of Heitinga.
City boss Mancini wants a ball-playing centre-half, and that need was heightened when skipper Vincent Kompany limped out of the derby - highlighting what he sees as a lack of cover.
DARRON GIBSON believes Everton FC have the quality and self-belief to overcome Stoke City’s physical threat at the Britannia Stadium.
The Republic of Ireland midfielder realises that Tony Pulis’ side represent a significant challenge to the Blues momentum tomorrow, but insists they should not be daunted by the hosts’ powerful reputation.
David Moyes’ men have only taken one point from their last three visits to the Potteries, however Gibson, 25, is in confident mood.
He said: “They’re well organised and good defensively but they’re not impossible to beat at home. If we can go there, play our normal game and play well, I think we’ll get a result.
“It’s always a tough place to go, and physically they’re obviously one of the biggest teams in the Premier League so they’re a threat from set pieces.
“The [Stoke] fans are unbelievable there and like a 12th man but I think their size has a lot to do with it.
“But we’ve been on a good run of form the last few games so hopefully if we can keep playing well I think we can go there and get a result.”
Gibson has helped the Blues climb back to fourth spot in the Premier League since returning from injury against Arsenal last month, and has been pleased at how he has fitted back into the team.
“Obviously to be out for three months, it was quite a long time,” he said. “But I worked hard when I was out and I slotted back in straight away which was pleasing. I’m happy enough. Hopefully I can just keep it going now over the next few games.”
The former Manchester United player may be reunited with former Old Trafford team-mate Michael Owen tomorrow, with the striker hoping to feature against the Blues, but Gibson backs the Blues back line to cope with his poaching instinct.
He added: “I was only there for a year-and-a-half while he was there but it will be nice to see him. If he plays, he’s proved his goalscoring ability so he will be a threat. But I’d back our defenders to be okay.”
THE DRIVE from Reading’s Madjeski stadium back to Merseyside takes roughly four hours, but for Seamus Coleman it felt far longer.
The Everton defender admits his archetypal ‘bad day at the office’ against Brian McDermott’s men last month left him in deep contemplation as the team coach made its way back along the M6.
Coleman’s inexplicably rash challenge on Adam Le Fondre had permitted the journeyman striker to pick himself up and complete a previously unlikely win for the hosts, after Everton had dominated the first half.
To compound the misery of the Blues as they trooped off the pitch and back into their changing room, David Moyes had just told the media he had never been angrier after a defeat.
By his own admission, Coleman wanted to quickly get that rotten afternoon out of his system.
Instead he had to wait a month on the sidelines, battling to regain fitness from another ankle injury as key games against Arsenal and Manchester City passed – the type of fixtures any hungry young player wants to be part of.
But for Coleman, still only 24, experience has brought perspective.
“It was a poor result against Reading, there were a few poor performances on the day and I didn’t have my greatest day in an Everton shirt,” he says ahead of another potential banana skin for the Blues in tomorrow’s trip to face Stoke at the Britannia stadium.
“After that sort of afternoon you want to go out and get it right as soon as possible and I couldn’t because I was injured.
“I’ve been itching to get back as soon as possible, but at the same time had to make sure it was right.
“Usually I’d play half-fit but in this case it wouldn’t have benefited the lads or myself, I knew I had to let it heal fully and get it right.
“Reading didn’t weigh on my mind for too long though. Like any game if you have a bad day you can’t sleep that night and it bothers you. But you wake up the next day and get at it again. It’s football.
“You’re not going to play well every single game, mistakes happen but at other times you’ll make goals. It’s part of the nature of the sport. Thankfully I managed to have a decent performance against Spurs. I felt good. I hadn’t trained much but I felt strong and like I could keep going.”
Coleman insists he does not especially savour fixtures against Spurs, even if his debut against the Londoners will live long in the memory of Evertonians.
That was 2009 and Coleman is now a Republic of Ireland international with 66 Everton appearances under his belt – the latest an eye-catching display against Andre Villas-Boas’ men, when the right-back created Steven Pienaar’s late equaliser.
“I enjoy playing against them. I don't particularly savour facing them per se, but people do remind me that was the game at Goodison when I came on and did well,” he says.
“It’s a great memory for me and one I’ll always have. I always seem to do OK when I play against them.
“I’ve come on since then. I came on as a raw player against Spurs. As you get older you make mistakes and have good and bad games. I’ve learned how to deal with stuff like that a lot better than maybe I would have back then.”
Coleman will need his developing maturity as the Blues attempt to navigate the litmus test of Premier League physicality at Stoke, but team-mate Marouane Fellaini is confident Moyes’ current crop are equal to the task.
Indeed the Belgian insists this squad of players – a group he credits for helping him scoop his recent player of the month accolade - is the strongest he has played with.
“I’m happy but if I didn’t have my teammates I wouldn’t be player of the month,” said. “For me, the most important thing is victory with the team. I hope the club continues like this.
“I have played here for five years now and it is the first time we are in the top four. I hope the team stays there. If you lose two games you can drop down the table.”
The Blues have only taken one point from their last three visits to the Potteries, but Fellaini is confident the balance can be redressed tomorrow.
“It’s a difficult game because it is physical,” added the 25-year-old. “It’s hard to play away against Stoke and I hope the team can win there. It’s difficult but we have a chance.”
DARRON GIBSON spread some early festive cheer yesterday when he made a surprise appearance at the home of a lucky supporter.
Daniel Allen of Runcorn was delighted to find the Blues midfielder on his doorstep wearing a blue Santa hat and carrying a sack full of Everton gifts.
The 23-year-old was the second winner of the special Felli’s Stocking giveaway, after he helped evertonfc.com in the quest to turn the city blue by filling a virtual stocking online.
Daniel’s wishlist included a 1995 FA Cup winners’ shirt, a 1985 European Cup Winners Cup final shirt, a dressing gown, two Everton backpacks, a tie, car boxing gloves and some lucky pants! As well as having his wishlist realised, courtesy of evertondirect.com, Daniel was presented with the added gift of a Half Season Ticket.
Danny said: “I’d only just got up. I’ve been on nights. I’m ecstatic, made up. I really didn’t expect to wake up and find Darron Gibson at my door. It’s made my Christmas.”
And Gibson was delighted to take time out to make the special Christmas delivery. He said: “It’s always nice to give something back to the fans. They’re great and they’re there every week, home and away, and they spend a lot of money throughout the season.”
And with Everton also ensuring Danny, courtesy of a Half Season Ticket, can enjoy every minute of the Blues in action at Goodison during the second half of the season, Gibson is confident the squad will give him something to savour: “We’re usually better in the second half of the season so hopefully he’s got the best half to look forward to.”
As part of the Club’s Blue Crimbo campaign, Evertonians have been able to select their dream stocking full of goodies, up to the value of £200.
Throughout December, every time supporters share Christmas photos, enter competitions, tweet #bluecrimbo or open the online advent calendar, the map of the city turns increasingly blue.
As landmarks are reached on the map, a lucky supporter will be randomly selected to receive the contents of their dream stocking.
Sam Reaney of Ormskirk became the first to win last week and there’s still three more to give away.
FOR a chance to win Everton merchandise and a Half Season Ticket, supporters can fill their dream stocking today on evertonfc.com/bluecrimbo.