Despite being tipped for a move in the January transfer window, James McCarthy remains an Everton player.
The Irish international midfielder was a major target for Newcastle in January, with Sunderland also believed to have an interest, but manager Ronald Koeman and chairman Bill Kenwright resisted all attempts to prise him away from Goodison Park.
Koeman was speaking to reporters ahead of his side’s clash against Stoke City on Wednesday night, Koeman explained why he had been so keen to hang on to McCarthy in this window, as well as outlining his plans for the 26-year-old going forward:
“I see [McCarthy] having a long term future here because I think he is a really good player and those players we need for the future of Everton.
“We need competition in the midfield and that is what I mentioned to the board of the club.
“There is no possibility for one of the midfielders to go – yes for Darron Gibson, because there was too much competition for him, but not for James.”
The £24m signing of Morgan Schneiderlin, as well as the emergence of 18-year-old Tom Davies, has meant that competition for places at the club has become fierce, even accounting for the departures of Gibson and Tom Cleverley.
His position in a war of words between Koeman and Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill could also have hampered his hopes of nailing down a starting spot at Everton, and while the Dutchman insists that this is not the case, he would have no problem airing more grievances with O’Neill in public if he felt it necessary.
“My attitude is the same. If what happened with all the injuries and all the call ups for Ireland I will do the same.
“Of course, he’s really on a good fitness level and that makes James a better player than I saw in the beginning.
“At the beginning he was not fit, he had his problems with his hamstring. I am really pleased with his quality and how he is involved in the team.”
McCarthy is likely to be on the bench at the Bet365 Stadium, and will almost certainly be a part of O’Neill’s Ireland squad for the matches against Wales and Iceland at the end of March.