By Wayne Veysey

21st Dec, 2016 | 5:38pm

Odds slashed: Everton strong favourites to sign £20m-rated defender in January

By Alex Stevens

The odds on Everton signing Burnley centre-back Michael Keane in the January transfer window have been slashed.

Bookies Sky Bet placed odds of 6/1 earlier this month on Ronald Koeman landing the Manchester United academy product next month.

The odds of the Merseyside club signing Keane in January have now been narrowed by Sky Bet to 7/4 in a clear sign that a series of significant bets have been placed on the possibility of the transfer being sealed.

Everton are a long way ahead of other Premier League clubs in the betting, with big guns Manchester United priced at 6/1, Chelsea at 16/1 and Liverpool at 18/1.

Keane’s stock has risen considerably since the start of the season, having twice been called up to England squads by Gareth Southgate and reportedly caught the eye of a string of Premier League outfits.

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The Sun reported that Leicester will make a £20million bid for him in the January window, although the champions are nowhere to be seen in the latest bookmakers’ odds.

Everton bought Ashley Williams for £10million from Swansea in the summer but they have looked unconvincing at the back in recent months.

Skipper Phil Jagielka appears past his best while Williams and Ramiro Funes Mori have also failed to produce consistently impressive performances.

Everton’s lowest point came when they were thrashed 5-0 by Chelsea last month, while they also conceded three goals at home to Watford in a recent 3-2 defeat.

Keane started his career at United but has risen to the threshold of international football at Burnley, who he joined from Old Trafford initially on a half-season loan before completing a permanent transfer in January 2015.

Everton are ninth in the Premier League heading into the festive period after Monday’s 1-0 defeat to Liverpool meant they missed the opportunity to climb above Southampton into seventh.

In other Everton transfer news, Tony Cascarino has urged Koeman to consider a much improved Premier League striker as a replacement for Romelu Lukaku.