Ronald Koeman has described the Everton target, Michael Keane, as a defender of great potential but said his summer reshuffle may not signal the end of Phil Jagielka’s career at Goodison Park.
The Everton manager intends to overhaul his backline before next season with Keane, Burnley’s newly capped England international, Hull City’s Harry Maguire plus the expensive and in-demand Virgil van Dijk among the targets with Premier League experience.
Koeman confirmed in January that Keane was “on our list but he’s on lots of teams’ lists” and the 24-year-old, who will have one year remaining on his contract this summer, has since broken into the England set-up under Gareth Southgate. Burnley head to Goodison on Saturday seeking their first away win of the Premier League season against an Everton side who have won their past seven home games. Koeman has again expressed admiration for a central defender he views as pivotal to Burnley’s survival chances.
“He is one of the defenders really involved in the season of Burnley,” he said of Keane. “It’s not easy to score and it is not easy to create against them. They have good organisation and it will be hard to create open chances against them. I think he’s one of the young centre-backs with a great future.”
Koeman’s pursuit of new, younger central defenders will raise further doubt over Jagielka’s future. The club captain, who was wanted by David Moyes at Sunderland in January when out of the Everton first team, will have 12 months remaining on his contract this summer when he marks 10 years’ service at Goodison.
The 34-year-old has forced his way back into the team recently and Koeman admits Jagielka’s experience could be important should the club face the additional demands of the Europa League next season.
Koeman, who took Jagielka with him to visit the injured Seamus Coleman at home in Donegal this week, said: “Now he is playing again his attitude is perfect! I’m joking but of course it was a difficult situation for him in the beginning of 2017. He wasn’t getting game time and it was difficult. After that he changed his attitude and he accepted, and he could see the different direction the club is going.
“It helps now because I think he’s really performing at his best. It’s all about competition and the performances of the players.
“We don’t have big competition at the moment because we have lost Seamus and Ramiro Funes Mori, two defenders, but if he plays like he is playing now then I don’t have any doubt about Phil. If we qualify for Europe then there will be a different season than this season. We will play Thursday-Sundays and of course in that situation you need and we will get a stronger squad than we have now.”