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7th Dec, 2016 | 10:13am

Everton to rival Chelsea for £35m-rated Premier League defender - report

By Will Butcher

Everton are set to rival Chelsea in the pursuit of highly-rated Middlesbrough captain Ben Gibson, according to a report.

The Daily Mirror claim that Middlesbrough have slapped a huge asking price of £35million on their skipper in order to fend off interest from their top-flight rivals.

The 23-year-old stopper has been in magnificent form at the back for Aitor Karanka’s Premier League new boys this season, catching the attention of both Stamford Bridge boss Antonio Conte and his Goodison Park counterpart Ronald Koeman.

Gibson’s side are expected to struggle at the back this season, after gaining promotion from the Championship last term.

However, the uncapped Englishman has played a pivotal part in Boro’s impressive return to the Premier League as they sit in 13th place.

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Gibson, son of Boro chairman Steve, has been crucial at the back alongside Calum Chambers, keeping four clean sheets against the likes of Arsenal, West Brom, Hull and Bournemouth.

Since his debut for the Teeside outfit in April 2011, Gibson has made a total of 127 league and cup appearances for Middlesbrough.

Despite signing Ashley Williams from Swansea in the summer, Everton could be in the market for a new central defender as Phil Jagielka turned 34 earlier this season and doubts remain over the future of Ramiro Funes Mori.

Football Insider verdict:

With Everton conceding eight goals in their last four Premier League games, Koeman could be tempted at using his huge transfer kitty to bring in the commanding Middlesbrough captain. Jagielka’s pace is a concern at the back as he continues to get older, while Ashley Williams is 32 himself. Gibson has shown that he is dependable in the air against the Premier League’s strikers, as well as showing a maturity and calmness on the ball. A move for Gibson would be a huge coup for the Toffees if they do pull off a move for the Englishman, but he is not worth the astronomical figure that Middlesbrough have quoted their Premier League rivals.

In other Everton transfer news, the Toffees could be about to sign these two Manchester United outcasts.