By Alex Taylor

New Everton signing Ashley Williams has claimed that joining the Toffees hurt him this summer after spending eight years with Swansea prior to his move.

The centre-back joined the Swans in the 2007-08 season and made 352 appearances for the now established Premier League side.

Williams became the third senior summer arrival at Goodison Park in the transfer window after the captures of Idrissa Gueye and Martin Stekelenburg, and was subsequently followed to the club by Yannick Bolasie.

“It was really difficult,” Williams told Wales Online. “It hurts, really, at the time leaving. There are so many good people there, I’d been there eight years, my kids have grown up there, gone to school there and so Swansea is a massive part of my life.”

“It was difficult saying bye to everyone but I felt, at this stage of my career, it was something I needed, a bit of new scenery, a bit of a new challenge – and that’s nothing against Swansea.”

Williams, 31, is now widely regarded as one of the most reliable defenders in the Premier League, starting all but two of Swansea’s 38 league matches last season.

He helped guide Wales to an unlikely semi-finals at Euro 2016 and new Everton manager Ronald Koeman has recruited him to steady his defence.

Williams will be a direct replacement for John Stones, who completed a £47.5million transfer to Manchester City that demolished Everton’s transfer record.

In other Everton transfer news, target Joe Hart is open to a move abroad this summer amid growing doubts about his Manchester City future, according to a report.