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TOTTENHAM’S signing of Lewis Holtby looked in jeopardy last night after Schalke revealed to Sunday Express Sport that they are open to other offers for the Germany international.
The midfield playmaker has signed a pre-contract agreement to join Spurs on a free transfer when his deal with the Bundesliga club expires at the end of the season. But Schalke would like some money for Holtby and are prepared to let him go this month – if the price is right.
That means Everton could steal the player from under Spurs’ noses in a cut-price deal, especially as the player and his Merseyside-born dad are both lifelong Everton fans. A Spurs spokesman said: “He has signed an agreement to join us in the summer and that’s that. We don’t know what the Schalke people’s agenda is on this.”
Schalke managing director Horst Heldt said his club would sell Holtby this month as long as they had time to find a replacement. “And we are prepared to speak to Tottenham about it,” he said.
Holtby fuelled the speculation by admitting he is an avid Everton fan whose family’s loyalties are with the Toffees.
The player’s father, Chris, who met Holtby’s mum while serving as a soldier in Germany, brought him up to support Everton.
The player added: “I used to sit with my dad in front of the TV and long to play in England.
“My father has been an Everton fan since he was five and he infected me with the Everton virus!
“Since then I have been an Everton fan.
“It would be realising a dream for me to play in the Premier League one day.”
Everton boss David Moyes will be a wanted man at German clubs Schalke and Werder Bremen this summer.
With his contract at Goodison Park ending in June and, having so far failed to agree a new one, Moyes’ future on Merseyside remains in doubt.
And the Scot’s recent comment that he has ambitions to manage abroad – and, specifically, in Germany – is triggering serious interest from the two Bundesliga giants.
Schalke, despite reaching the last 16 of the Champions League, are struggling this domestically this season and last month sacked manager Huub Stevens after a string of poor results left them outside the top six.
Youth coach Jens Keller has taken the reins but is only a short-term solution until the right person to revive the seven-time German champions becomes available.
And Moyes, 49, now heads Schalke’s list of potential candidates. A source close to the club told the Daily Star Sunday: “Moyes is highly regarded in Germany and Schalke are definitely monitoring his situation at Everton.
“If he ends up leaving there in the summer, they will be at the front of the queue.”
Moyes said: “I always had hope of being a coach abroad. If I had the choice I would probably go to Germany, in part because of the mentality which is similar to mine.”
But while Schalke might be favourites to land Moyes, they face competition from rivals Werder Bremen.
At present Werder are even further adrift in the Bundesliga than Schalke. They are 12th place, 20 points behind leaders Bayern Munich.
And the noises coming out of the club suggest the days of their long-serving coach Thomas Schaaf, at the helm since 1999, are numbered.
The Werder board are big admirers of Moyes’ managerial style ad believe the high-tempo passing game favoured by him would be ideal in Germany.
Leighton Baines has become one of the most-wanted players in Europe.
Everton’s free-kick expert is the left-back Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson sees as the ideal successor to Patrice Evra.
United were set to try and land £15million-rated Baines, 28, last summer until Ferguson realised he could win the battle for Robin van Persie when he was leaving Arsenal.
A respected transfer market source told the Daily Star Sunday: “United effectively ran out of money in the summer in terms of their budget for signings.
“They wanted Baines but couldn’t afford him after paying £22millon for van Persie.
“But that deal was too good to miss and Fergie has been proved right in pushing out the boat for RVP.”
So Baines has remained at Everton, where he will have two years left on his contract at the end of this season.
And United are not the only big club who would like to sign the ex-Wigan man. Liverpool have a long-standing interest but that would be a tricky move for Baines.
Bayern Munich also made a move for a player who is now genuine competition for Chelsea’s Ashley Cole for the England left-back role.
But Baines says he would prefer to continue in the Premier League, rather than move to Germany. E
Everton boss David Moyes, meanwhile, is adamant that Baines won’t be leaving in the current transfer window.
But Everton will face a fight to keep him in the summer. As for this month, one player who could leave Goodison is Dutch defender Johnny Heitinga.
Everton are ready to move for Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Amorebieta.
Norwich, West Ham and Stoke are also tracking the 27-year-old defender, who has just six months left on his deal.
Bilbao are desperate to get cash for the Venezuelan, who would cost £400,000.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque must be wondering why he bothered.
A trip to Goodison to take in a game between two of the Premier League’s better teams would have sounded like a good idea when the man who has won the World Cup and European Championship was planning his new year.
Especially as he could run the rule over Miguel Michu and the three other Spaniards who are helping Michael Laudrup to win friends and influence people at the Liberty Stadium.
When Del Bosque returns to Madrid he will report that perhaps the top-flight in England isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
Certainly not worth the new bank-busting £3billion television deal that the clubs of La Liga are so envious of.
This was football, but not as Del Bosque knows it.
It was a tough, rough battle of attrition. It was a game riddled with mistakes between two teams lacking the nouse or know-how to take advantage.
“If Del Bosque had called me before I would have told him that this wouldn’t be the best game to see Michu,” said Laudrup.
“They watch the Premier League in Spain, so Del Bosque will know exactly what Michu has done this season.
“And I think he has already made up his mind about him.”
Michu, who has scored 16 times since arriving from Rayo Vallecano for just £2million in the summer, has already been told by Del Bosque that he will get win first cap when Spain face Uruguay next month.
But he cut a frustrated figure and he threw his gloves down in anger when he was replaced by Danny Graham for the final nine minutes.
In fairness to the Spaniard, he did produce the only moment of genuine class.
His clever run to escape the attentions of Phil Jagielka in the 36th minute to collect Nathan Dyer’s pass was matched by the clipped finish that seemed destined for the top corner.
But then Tim Howard thrust out a hand to divert the ball onto the top of the crossbar.
Not only was it the visitors’ best effort of the game, it was their only effort.
But, just as they did when they won at Chelsea in the first leg of the Capital One semi-final in midweek, the Welsh side are not just about playing pretty football.
Everton had scored for 18 successive Premier League games, but too many draws are threatening to undermine their top-four dream.
This was the 10th time this season that the Merseysiders have had to settle for a share of the spoils.
And Moyes said: “It could cost us if we don’t turn these draws into wins, but we just couldn’t get the ball over the line today.
“We had a few chances, but nothing that was perfect. No-one missed what I would call a real sitter.
“We could have done some things better, but I can’t fault the players for their effort.”
Everton took an age to build up their usual head of steam.
Then Jagielka’s long ball on the half-hour was met by the towering Marouane Fellaini and when Victor Anichebe tried to force the ball home from close range with his forehead, he was denied first by Michel Vorm’s outstretched hand and then by the clearing boot of Ashley Williams.
That was the cue for the home side to take control. Fellaini shot straight at Vorm from 12 yards after being set up by Seamus Coleman.
Then Leon Osman inexplicably directed a header wide after Leighton Baines had found him unmarked in the Swansea six-yard box with a curling free-kick.
Everton’s bombardment grew in ferocity after the break. But with Williams and Chico Flores outstanding at the heart of the Swansea defence, so did their desperation.
Nikica Jelavic appealed in vain for a penalty after tangling with Williams after Baines had launched yet another long ball into the visitors’ penalty area.
Jagielka would surely have scored had he not mistimed his jump to meet Baines’ corner from six yards out.
Everton matches have come with a promise of goals but, as Goodison welcomed its most illustrious visitor of the season, both paying public and the special guest departed disappointed.
Vicente del Bosque was on a scouting visit to watch Michu but it was an equally unrewarding occasion for Swansea's prolific Spaniard and Everton's consistent scorers.
Spain's World Cup-winning coach witnessed a spectacle of Everton superiority without an end product. Michu, with an isolated opportunity, came closest but he was denied an eighth goal in 10 games, in the process ensuring that Everton kept a clean sheet for the first time since September.
Their goal was only threatened when Michu was sent galloping clear by Ki Sung-yeung. With his loping gait and seeming nonchalance, there is an air of Dimitar Berbatov about Swansea's top scorer and the finish was straight from the Bulgarian's handbook, a languid chip that Tim Howard just managed to deflect on to the bar.
"That is really classy," Michael Laudrup said. Before and afterwards, however, Michu was quiet.
Del Bosque's detour to Merseyside could have been avoided had he consulted the Swansea manager. "If Del Bosque had called me before, I could have told him it wasn't the best game to see Michu," added Laudrup,
unapologetic about his the defensive approach that left his top scorer marginalised.
"It has been a great week," said the Swansea manager, whose side held Arsenal in the FA Cup and defeated Chelsea in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final.
"Three very difficult games and three great performances."
Their second consecutive shutout meant that, for the first time in 20 games, Everton failed to score.
"We are a bit frustrated," David Moyes said. "We had three or four good opportunities but I couldn't say I thought anyone missed a sitter."
The chances were shared around the side. At full stretch, Nikica Jelavic mistimed a volley that rolled wide. Victor Anichebe was denied by the agility and excellence of Michel Vorm, who also thwarted Phil Neville. Leon Osman headed wide, Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka over.
If Everton's aerial menace made it a novel experience for Del Bosque, it was a game of sterile domination, the accusation levelled at Spain before their Euro 2012 4-0 final win over Italy.
For Everton, whose season has been littered with draws, the scoreline was unusual but the outcome all too familiar. Moyes said: "It could quite easily cost us if we don't turn these into wins."