By Dominic Toner
Sunderland have offered defender Lamine Kone a new contract to fend off interest from Everton, according to a report.
The Mail claim that Goodison manager Ronald Koeman had identified Kone as a centre-back target for his new-look team and is willing to pay £16million to get him.
It is said that Sunderland have offered Kone an improved £70,000-a-week deal to convince him to stay as well as a contract extension beyond his current four years.
However, the 27-year-old is still keen to move to the Merseyside and there is growing confidence at Everton that they can persuade him to join.
Koeman is insisting on landing two centre-backs this summer as John Stones is set to complete a club-record deal to Manchester City.
Koeman also admires Kone’s no-nonsense approach to defending with the 27-year-old impressing towards the end of last season as Sunderland narrowly avoided relegation thanks to a string of excellent results.
Kone arrived at the Stadium of Light in January from Ligue 1 and helped his side secure safety with 15 appearances and two goals.
The Frenchman is under contract until 2020 at Sunderland, but Everton are reportedly confident they can convince new manager David Moyes to part with the centre-back.
West Brom and Leicester are also thought to be interested in acquiring Kone’s services.
In other Everton transfer news, they have agreed terms for a midfielder who has signed a four-year contract.