Everton and Newcastle are rumoured to be readying summer bids for Montpellier’s midfield all-rounder Benjamin Stambouli, who’s starred in a number of roles for La Paillade this term.
The 23-year-old is nominally listed as a holding-midfielder, but has also filled in as a forward for Rolland Courbis’ side this term – scoring twice in Ligue 1 and laying on another strike – as well as at centre-half when required.
Stambouli’s versatility has alerted the Toffees – who are 7/2 to reel Arsenal back in and claim a top-four finish – and Newcastle, although Geordies chairman Mike Ashley’s recent frugality means even the £3m figure mooted for the Marseille native may be beyond their budget.
St James’ Park is already home to ten senior French players, but the last time Ashley paid transfer fees to improve Alan Pardew’s squad was January 2013 and with the former West Ham coach thought to be on his last legs in the north east, Stambouli could be forgiven for swerving such a switch.
A move to Goodison Park surely rates a much more appealing prospect and with gaps apparent in Roberto Martinez’s exciting squad, the former France Under-21 international would expect plenty of gametime on Merseyside.
Gareth Barry’s loan signing has proved to be amongst the acquisitions of the season, with the former England man starting 30 of Everton’s 35 Premier League games so far during a campaign that could yet end in a first top-four finish since 2005.
However, it is unclear whether Everton will be willing or able to cobble enough money together to extend Barry’s stay and the 33-year-old would have to take a sizeable paycut from his reported £6m salary at Manchester City.
The Toffees are also far from blessed with numbers at centre-half, with 19-year-old John Stones – who had previously been assumed to be a right-back – performing admirably alongside 36-year-old stalwart Sylvain Distin since captain Phil Jagielka’s injury.
Stambouli – who’s started all but one of Montpellier’s Ligue 1 games this term – is out of contract in summer 2015 and may be available for even less than the £3m figure currently being bandied about, according to some reports.