We will hold on to £25m Seamus Coleman, vows Roberto Martinez
Roberto Martinez has placed a £25m price tag on Seamus Coleman's head in a clear attempt to scare prospective bidders away from the 25-year-old Irish international.
No sooner had the Toffees boss sealed the deal to bring one Irishman -- Aiden McGeady -- into Goodison Park than he was fielding questions about whether he would lose another, Coleman, to either Arsenal or Manchester United.
Yet, given how he is tied to a long-term deal -- the terms of which the club are keen to renegotiate in May -- Coleman's worth is clearly prized by their Spanish manager, the driving force between those contractual discussions.
And while he has made no secret of his admiration for Coleman in public, Martinez's private comments have been even more revealing. "Martinez regards Seamus as the best right-back in the Premier League and if anyone calls, they will be told to start the bidding at £25m," said a source close to the manager. "I want to build this squad, not weaken it," was Martinez's official policy line.
He went some way to doing that at the weekend, spending £500,000 to bring McGeady from Spartak Moscow, increasing the Irish colony on Merseyside, where Coleman, Darron Gibson and James McCarthy currently reside.
"Aiden knows Darron, Seamus and James really well and they have also started to create a nucleus in the national team," said Martinez.
"Aiden is someone who can play left or right and is a clever footballer with a real understanding of how to hurt teams. At 27, he is probably at the best moment of his career and with his Champions League and Europa League experience, is exactly what we need."
The statistical evidence of McGeady's time in Glasgow and Moscow firms up Martinez's point. At Celtic, he acquired eight trophies in six seasons before the £9.5m move to Russia was followed by 13 goals and 29 assists in 92 matches.
"The Russian experience was a positive one but this is the next chapter of my career and a challenge I am relishing," said McGeady. "It has been a long time coming because there was talk of a move last summer -- and before that, I nearly hooked up with the manager when he was at Wigan.
"He plays football the right way which will suit me and, secondly, I really want to test myself in the Premier League and play for a big club like this. I couldn't be happier. It's a dream move, really."
From Martin O'Neill's perspective, the addition of another Irish international to Everton's ranks could hardly have come at a better time -- as the remaining Premier League internationals at his disposal continue to plug away at teams positioned 10th or lower in the division.
More players, however, could make significant switches this month -- and Stephen Ireland's permanent move from Aston Villa to Stoke should be finalised by tomorrow. "Talks have been progressive and I don't see any problems arising," said Potters boss Mark Hughes.
Yet deep problems remain between Aston Villa and Norwich City -- denting whatever hopes Wes Hoolahan had of switching employers in this transfer window. Unused again on Saturday, Hoolahan's manager Chris Hughton claimed his absence was for purely tactical reasons.
"I opted to play two up front and within that debate there is always those who will feel do you play two out-and-out strikers or one in behind," said Hughton.
"Wes played in the last two league games but was injured for the FA Cup. He was very much in my thoughts. There is no situation other than that. He is a Norwich City player who was in my thoughts to play today and a strong part of the squad. I refuse to comment on speculation."
Meanwhile, the guessing game surrounding Shane Long and Hull City refuses to go away, with the 'Hull Daily Mail' reporting that the Tigers have lodged a £6m bid for the Ireland striker.
However, a managerial source at West Brom told the Irish Independent yesterday that no offer has been received and that Long has told back-room staff members Dean Kiely and Keith Downing that he is happy at the club.
Former Irish international Kiely was also assured of his future as the club's goalkeeping coach by their new manager, Pepe Mel, last Friday.