By support

2nd Jan, 2017 | 11:22am

Everton dealt major blow in pursuit of international midfielder - reports

By Matt Farr

Everton have been dealt a major blow in their bid to bring Zenit midfielder Axel Witsel to the club this month.

The 72-times capped Belgium international is out of contract at the Russian club in the summer, and could have been available on a cut-price deal.

The Sun report that Everton boss Ronald Koeman is a long-term admirer of the midfielder, and failed in an attempt to land him in the summer.

Belgian news outlet RTBF now claim that a deal has been reached to make Witsel the next high-profile departure to the Chinese Super League, which scuppers any possibility of Koeman renewing his interest in the player.

The former Southampton boss must now turn his attention towards other targets.

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The report suggests that the 27-year-old is set for a move to Tianjin Songjiang (also known as Tianjin Quanjian), and would seal a four-year deal worth over £15 million per year.

Tianjin are currently coached by former Italy international and 2006 Ballon d’Or winner Fabio Cannavaro, who wants to make the Everton target his first major signing since winning promotion to the Chinese Super League.

A midfield addition remains high on the agenda for Koeman and Everton, with current Toffees man Tom Cleverley on the radar of Newcastle.

The Sun claim that the current Championship leaders have tabled a loan bid for the England international, which could leave Koeman short of midfield options.

Senegal ace Idrissa Gueye, meanwhile, is set to miss the next month as he takes part in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Football Insider verdict:

It is a major blow to Everton to miss out on a player of Witsel’s quality. The Toffees midfield is in dire need of someone with the Belgian’s presence in the centre of the park. Koeman acquired a huge talent in Idrissa Gueye in the summer, but the former Aston Villa man can only do half of the job. With Gareth Barry’s advancing years, meanwhile, Koeman needs someone else to be the archetypal box-to-box midfielder – and that is Witsel in a nutshell. He reads the game well, can dribble, can pick a pass, and is strong in the air. His versatility could also have presented Koeman with a number of different options. There will be similar options out there as Everton look to move on from Witsel, but with just six months left on his contract, they may be any quite as easily obtainable.

In other Everton transfer news, Liam Rosenior has compared this Everton transfer target to England superstar Dele Alli.