Dwight McNeil and Everton transfer latest after Rafa Benitez hope denied in summer window

By Phil Kirkbride

Everton will continue to closely monitor the progress of Dwight McNeil this season before deciding whether to revive their interest in the player next summer.

And the Blues are to get a close up view of the 21-year-old winger, who had been a prime target for manager Rafa Benitez earlier in the window, when Burnley visit Goodison on Monday night.

As reported by the ECHO in July, Benitez was keen on adding McNeil to the Blues' squad as the last of the three wingers he had earmarked this summer.

Everton's summer transfer business would ultimately be capped by financial fair play regulations but, at that stage, Benitez was still hopeful the money, and room in the wage bill, would be found in order to fund a move for McNeil.

The Blues, it is believed, were ready to start the bidding at around £25m and though they expected to face competition from Aston Villa, there was hope Benitez could land Burnley's star man.

But Burnley's resolve would not be tested by either Everton, or Villa, this summer.

Ultimately, financial fair play issues put paid to the club's hopes of making an offer for the 21-year-old because Burnley made it clear that they would not entertain an offer for their prized asset unless Everton, or any other club, tabled a bid that would be impossible to turn down.

Sean Dyche had made it clear that McNeil's crossing ability, and Chris Wood's aerial presence, was going to be the key to ensuring their Premier League safety for another season, so to lose one half of that combination, Burnley would have to be recompensed accordingly

A figure of around £50m was being mentioned in transfer circles and such a fee would, by some distance, be a club record buy for Everton.

Following McNeil's excellent display against Liverpool, at Anfield, last month, Dyche told the Burnley Express it would take a "very, very large sum of money" to make them consider selling the player.

McNeil is contracted to the Turf Moor club until June 2024, where he is believed to earn in the region of £40-45,000-a-week, and he is said to be happy at Burnley, where he plays almost all of the games.

He has played in all but two of Burnley's Premier League games since the start of the 2019-20 season and on Monday night, at Goodison, he will make his 100th top flight appearance.

Everton and Benitez will continue to monitor McNeil's progress at Burnley this season and then reassess the situation when the club begins planning for the summer window, following the close of the January market.

Burnley have no need or desire to sell but every player has a price, especially one who is about to enter the final two years of his deal.

Benitez sees McNeil as a good all-rounder, with excellent work-rate, and someone young enough for him to improve. Dyche has said McNeil needs to improve his upper body strength.

The Everton boss values wingers highly and felt McNeil was perfect for what he wanted to add to the ranks at Goodison, along side Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray.

Inside the club, McNeil was being considered as the potentially the 'big' signing of the summer, with club sources making it clear earlier in the window that money would be made available for top, young talent.

Like Townsend and Gray, McNeil is a player Benitez has been following for some time and felt he would have fit into Everton's squad well.

McNeil's crossing ability, and volume, is also what attracted Benitez.

He delivered 242 crosses in the Premier League last season, the fourth highest in the league, and in the season before, his 257 crosses were the fifth highest.

The England under-21 international bagged five assists last season and scored twice. Burnley only scored 33 times.

Indeed, Everton's desperate crossing was a stand-out feature in the game at Goodison, in March, where McNeil scored to help Burnley to a deserved 2-1 win.

Benitez will be hoping to avoid a repeat result on Monday night but may yet return for McNeil next summer.


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