Everton news

Martinez plays down Dempsey link

November 28, 2013
By Mike Whalley

Everton manager Roberto Martinez has refused to be drawn on reports linking him with a January loan deal for Clint Dempsey.

Clint Dempsey.
GettyImages Clint Dempsey has played for Tottenham and Fulham in the Premier League.

• O'Farrell: Martinez conundrum

The United States international striker, who joined Seattle Sounders from Tottenham on a four-year contract in August, is believed to be keen on a loan move to the Premier League during the Major League Soccer offseason.

Tottenham reportedly have the first option to re-sign 30-year-old Dempsey, while Everton and Aston Villa have been linked with him -- as have Fulham, another of his former clubs.

Martinez insists he is under no pressure to strengthen his attack despite the loss of Arouna Kone to a long-term knee injury and Nikica Jelavic’s continuing struggles for form.

The Everton manager is likely to be in the market, though, for a striker in January should a good deal become available.

Asked about Dempsey, Martinez said: "I’m sure there are going to be many links. We are looking at many players. We’re looking at many possibilities.

"But it’s not the time to talk about it now. We’ll never speak about a player who is registered with another football club.

"Any links that you get, you’re not going to be far wrong, but in the same way, you’re not going to be far right either."

Jelavic, 28, has scored once in his last 27 appearances for Everton, and was restricted to a 10-minute second-leg appearance as a substitute as Croatia qualified for the World Cup by beating Iceland in a playoff earlier this month.

West Ham are reportedly interested in taking the former Rangers striker on loan in January, but Martinez has declared that he wants to keep him.

The manager said: "It doesn’t surprise me [that he is being linked with other clubs] because Niki is a terrific player to have. He’s a goalscorer. You don’t get goalscorers easily in the game.

"With Croatia having qualified for the World Cup, you can imagine he’s a player who wants to be fresh and wants to be ready.

"From our point of view, it’s very important that Niki stays with us and is ready to help the team whenever the opportunity arises. That could be very soon."

Asked about his transfer plans for January. Martinez added: "We want to add if the right player and the right character becomes available, but it’s not a real need.

"What’s important is that after the transfer window in January, we are stronger than when it opened. That will always be our focus.

"I'm delighted with the players we have at the club. Yes, we’ve got a couple of long-term injuries with Arouna Kone and Darron Gibson. But overall, I’m very pleased with the squad."

Martinez, meanwhile, continues to play down concerns about Leighton Baines’ long-term Everton future, and insists that there remains no rush to sort out a new contract for him.

Baines, who will miss Saturday’s Premier League home game against Stoke as he recovers from a fractured toe that will keep him out for up to six weeks, was the subject of three bids during the summer from Manchester United, who are expected to follow up that interest in January.

Everton were prepared for the possibility that the England left-back, who has a deal at Goodison Park until 2015, could have gone with midfielder Marouane Fellaini to Old Trafford just before the last transfer window shut in Sept. 2.

But Martinez, who indicated in early September that Baines would be offered an improved deal, says that there is no need to speed up contract negotiations while the 28-year-old recovers from his injury.

The manager said: "The injury doesn’t change anything. Our plans have always been the same. We want to keep Leighton for the long term and that will never change.

"The injury is a setback, as you could imagine, but we’re going to use it to regenerate him, to give him a little bit of a breather.

"He’s been playing week in, week out, and facing a lot of demands with international duty as well.

"It’s a setback that we’re going to use in our favour. But in terms of contractual situation, our thoughts and strategy behind the scenes have not changed."

Martinez is also in no rush to get a new contract sorted out for long-serving right-back Tony Hibbert, who is getting back to full fitness after calf problems.

The 32-year-old’s current deal runs out next June, but the manager said: "Tony is someone I want at the football club for as long as possible. Another aspect of that is seeing how he is after the injury.

"All he wants now is to focus on his fitness and to fight to earn a place in the team. And that’s where we are.

"I don’t think it’s the moment to look any further than that. He’s a gem of a person. He’s a special footballer to have at the club, and we’ll always have that in our measurement every time we speak about Tony."

Hibbert and fellow defender Antolin Alcaraz have returned to fitness after injury, but Martinez is cautious about throwing either of them back into the squad to face Stoke.

Centre-back Alcaraz, signed on a free transfer after being released by Wigan in June, has missed the entire season to date with hernia, groin and hamstring problems.

But the 31-year-old played 45 minutes for the reserves in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Sheffield Wednesday on Monday.

Martinez said: "He is ready. Now it’s just a case of measuring his match fitness and being able to give him the time that he needs to pick up the pace of the league.

"He’s fully fit, anxious to come back, and anxious to help the team, which is a very positive note.

"But I would say it is important that he is fit for the Christmas period. It’s such a busy period that we’re going to need everyone.

"Antolin needs to be ready. What I’m not going to do is push him too early after the long spell he had to endure on the sidelines."

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