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What The Papers Say - 24 March

by Daniel Alston @efc_danalston

Everton v Swansea

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Sunday Mirror

Everton and Newcastle are set to battle for Dutch Under-21 ­international Virgil van Dijk.

Groningen’s decision to let Van Dijk talk to ­English clubs will spark a hotly contested race that Everton and ­Newcastle currently lead.

Both clubs considered January bids for the 21-year-old centre-back and have maintained a strong interest by having the player regularly watched. Swansea, Southampton, Reading and even Manchester United have also scouted Van Dijk over the past year.

Liverpool could enter the bidding, with ­manager Brendan Rodgers in the market for new defenders at the end of the season and looking closely at the Dutch market.

Groningen are demanding around £5million for Van Dijk, who has already made more than 50 appearances in the Eredivisie.

Meanwhile, Newcastle fans have revealed the lengths they will go to on their Europa League travels.

The Independent on Sunday

For Danny Donachie, two words help explain Everton's success in challenging for Europe with the top flight's smallest squad. There may be the twice-weekly yoga sessions and de rigueur afternoon naps, but the key is the players' attitude – or rather "amazing desire".
 
Everton, despite using fewer players (23) than any other club, are the only team with two players who have featured in all their club's Premier League games this season, Leighton Baines and Leon Osman.

Donachie, the club's head of medicine, underlines the extent of their desire to play every week. "Against Man City away this season, Leon Osman woke up at two in the morning and was vomiting until six. He had one piece of toast to eat and he played the whole game and was one of the best players."

Ditto Baines before a home game. "The night before, he started vomiting and again on the pitch doing the warm-up. Just before we went out, he was vomiting but he played the whole game."

David Moyes's small squad – and lack of options to rotate – has been cited as a reason for their post-Christmas dip yet Donachie, though aware of the cons ("It is difficult mentally to maintain your level for the whole season"), sees the pros too. "I definitely think there is an advantage, because the players who are playing every week, they get their rhythm," he says, arguing that sports science has wrongly "made players believe they can only do a certain amount".

Moyes is known as a hard trainer yet at this stage of the season that changes a little. "The duration of the training definitely decreases, it is as intense but a lot shorter and there's a bit more fun to it – to keep it fresh mentally," adds Donachie.

Sunday Express

SUNDERLAND could make a shock move for Everton boss David Moyes if Martin O’Neill decides to quit in the summer.

O’Neill came under fire from some Sunderland fans during and after the tame 1-1 draw against 10-man Norwich City on Wearside last Saturday.

It’s also believed some family members who were in the directors box for the game, which confirmed that the Black Cats are immersed in a tense battle to stay in the Premier League, were shocked by the abuse.

Seasoned O’Neill watchers fear the 61-year-old, a childhood Sunderland supporter, is becoming disillusioned with life at the Stadium of Light and could consider his future at the end of the season.

Welcomed by the fans as a saviour when he was appointed in November 2011 following the sacking of Steve Bruce, the stardust surrounding him has faded with many followers now questioning his tactics and buys.

It’s understood that American owner Ellis Short – who has sanctioned successful bids totalling £27million since the start of the season on Steven Fletcher, Adam Johnson and Danny Graham – is worried about this summer’s transfer budget considering Sunderland’s underwhelming campaign.

O’Neill, an honest and diligent man, won’t stay where he is not wanted. Sunderland’s final eight games of the season, which begin with the visit of Manchester United at lunchtime on Saturday, will dictate his mood come the middle of May.

If O’Neill decides he can’t continue then Sunderland will sound out Moyes, who has just celebrated 11 years as Everton manager but has yet to agree a new contract, with his current deal running out in the summer.

It can be revealed that the Scot received overtures about taking over at the Stadium of Light when Bruce was sent packing but didn’t give Sunderland any encouragement.

This summer could provide a different scenario with Moyes, 50 next month, deliberately leaving his options open over a possible move away from Merseyside.

While Sunderland are not a top four club which would appeal to the ambitious Moyes – they lie nine places below Everton in the Premier League – the Black Cats have a bigger stadium and huge potential if they get it right on the pitch.

Daily Star on Sunday

CHELSEA are still hopeful they will sign Belgium striker Marouane Fellaini in the summer from Everton for £25million.

The Londoners had hoped to sign him during the last transfer window but a deal couldn’t be thrashed out by all the parties involved.

Manchester United also showed an interest in landing Fellaini, 25, but after forking out £22m on signing Robin van Persie from ­Arsenal in the summer, their resources were limited.

Fellaini’s form has dipped since he was subjected to the transfer ­speculation and Everton might just now feel the time is right to sell.

Chelsea are believed to be ready to offer a five-year deal with wages of £4.5m.

Losing him would be a major blow to Everton boss David Moyes but there have been rumours that Fellaini, signed for a club record £15m from Standard Liege, has a buyout clause in his contract believed to be more than £22m.

If he joins Chelsea he would link up with fellow Belgian Eden Hazard.

Meanwhile, Toffees chief Moyes’ future at Everton may still be in ­­doubt – but he claims stability is the key at Goodison Park.

Scot Moyes will make a decision to stay or go at the end of this season when his contract ends.

He has been linked with Chelsea and Manchester City and has admitted to an interest in managing in Germany’s Bundesliga – with Schalke touted as a possible destination.

But Moyes, 49, will clearly find it hard to quit Everton, where he enjoys such a strong relationship with ­the chairman Bill Kenwright.

The former Preston boss said: “Everton now has a stability which many clubs would, I am sure, welcome.

“We have a chairman and a board who run the club the best they possibly can.

“They don’t constantly change the manager or have a big turnaround of players, because undoubtedly Everton would find themselves in financial trouble if that was the case.

“I believe the stability we have had is one of the reasons that we have been consistent challengers at the right end of the Premier League table for some time now.”

Moyes doesn’t have a trophy on his Everton CV – but is one of the most respected managers in the business.

And he pointed out: “I believe so much has changed since my first match in charge here 11 years ago.

“The progress that the club has made since then can be shown by Everton’s Premier League standings.

“In the last ten seasons, we have finished outside the top ten only twice.

“In the ten seasons previously, Everton were a club that found themselves regularly fighting in the bottom half of the table, apart from one year.

“I understand this will never satisfy everybody and nothing would give me more pleasure than to bring the success Everton had in the 1980s under Howard Kendall, with the great players he had. We are striving to reach those levels and we are putting every ounce of effort into trying to get back there.”

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