Champions League-chasing Everton will need summer reinforcements if they succeed in overcoming 7/2 odds to finish in the Premier League’s top four this term, with Southampton midfielder Jack Cork the latest name linked with a move to Goodison Park.
The 24-year-old has proved an astute signing for the Saints during his three seasons at St Mary’s since signing from Chelsea, after completing loan spells at six different clubs – including his current employers – during his time on the Stamford Bridge books.
Despite Southampton’s win-rate almost doubling with Cork in the starting line-up last term compared to when the Londoner failed to make the XI, coach Mauricio Pochettino began this campaign with a first-choice central-midfield partnership of new signing Victor Wanyama alongside Morgan Schneiderlin.
However, the big Kenyan has failed to regain his spot alongside the French-born spoiler since returning from eight weeks on the sidelines at the end of January, with Cork picked from the off in all but three of their 12 Premier League fixtures since.
The six footer’s strong performances have alerted Toffees boss Roberto Martinez, who may need to replace on-loan Manchester City star Gareth Barry in the heart of Everton’s midfield this summer.
Barry’s City contract is thought to total some £6m per year and while the former England international has been back to his best this term according to most reports, the 33-year-old’s age puts a permanent Merseyside move in peril.
Cork is almost a decade younger than Barry and would likely prove a much cheaper option for Everton, who are two points behind fourth-placed Arsenal – 4/25 to retain their Champions League spot – with the Saints, City and Hull left to play.
Qualifying for Europe’s premier competition for the first time in nine years would leave the Toffees in a much stronger position to tempt Cork to the north west, although Southampton may be willing to let the former England Under-21 star leave at the right price either way, with Wanyama waiting in the wings to reclaim his starting spot.