Everton still hopeful over Yakubu transfer

August 21, 2007

Everton have not given up hope of securing Middlesbrough striker Ayegbeni Yakubu despite a wrangle over his price tag.

The two clubs are understood to be £1million apart in their respective valuations of a player who cost the Teessiders £7.5million when he headed for the Riverside Stadium from Portsmouth in July, 2005.

However, discussions are ongoing and speculation that a breakthrough could be imminent grew when it emerged that Yakubu did not train with his Boro team-mates either yesterday or today.

The club, in line with their usual policy, were not commenting on the matter today amid concerted activity behind the scenes.

Yakubu's future has been a topic for debate all summer despite Boro manager Gareth Southgate's repeated insistence he wants to keep him after seeing Mark Viduka, Malcolm Christie and Danny Graham leave the club.

However, the feeling on Teesside has been for some time that he could be prepared to let him go at the right price provided a replacement could be found.

Everton's interest has been stepped up in recent days, although they are yet to meet the asking price, thought to be in the region of £11million, with former club Pompey and Premier League front-runners Manchester City also monitoring the Nigeria international's situation.

The former Maccabi Haifa frontman has scored 35 goals in his two seasons at the Riverside, but has stalled after the turn of the year in each of them.

He formed partnerships with Viduka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, but both have since left the club with Southgate recruiting Dong-Gook Lee, Jeremie Aliadiere, Tuncay Sanli and Mido in an effort to re-shape his frontline.

Should Yakubu follow Viduka and Hasselbaink through the exit door, Boro would have lost the providers of 35 of their goals last season, and the recruitment of another striker would be inevitable.

Southgate has been credited with an interest in Heerenveen's Brazilian hitman Afonso Alves, while the Teessiders are understood to have watched PSV Eindhoven duo Arouna Kone and Jefferson Farfan.

There have also been links with Alves' compatriot Fred, who is being tipped to leave French champions Lyon, and another Brazilian, CSKA Moscow's Vagner Love.

But with just 10 days of the transfer window remaining, things will have to move quickly if the situation is to be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.

Southgate got his first win of the season, albeit in controversial circumstances, at Fulham on Saturday and will head into Sunday's Tees-Tyne derby clash with Newcastle hoping to build upon that.

However, he will do so with his defensive resources stretched to the limit once again, although former Magpie Jonathan Woodgate could be back in the fold within weeks.

The 27-year-old underwent surgery on a damaged knee cartilage the day after last season drew to a close, and returned to full training yesterday.

He could now be as little as a fortnight away from resuming his place in Southgate's side, and he admits he cannot wait to get back to business.

Woodgate said: 'It's great to be back in training and I feel all right.

'Obviously I would love to be available for the derby - it's one of the biggest games of the season - but I need more training and that's what I am concentrating on.'

The win at Craven Cottage has given the whole club a boost, and Woodgate knows a repeat against Newcastle would send confidence soaring.

He said: 'It's a massive game for us and you can see that the lads cannot wait.

'We were very confident at the start of the season and we were very unlucky not to beat Blackburn on the first day.

'The performance at Wigan was not good enough, but then we rode our luck at Fulham and that made up for Blackburn.

'Those first three points were vital. Now we have to start climbing up the league again.

'If we can beat Newcastle, it will really get things going and then hopefully we can push on and make this a big season by challenging for a place in Europe.'