EVERTON manager Roberto Martinez did little to douse speculation linking him with a move for £10 million-rated Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk yesterday as he admitted he is the market for a centre-half.
Martinez was speaking after his side’s 3-1 friendly win against Hearts at Tynecastle, watched by a crowd of just over 10,000. The English side asserted their superiority thanks to a hat-trick from Romelu Lukaku, their £28m signing from Chelsea.
Chelsea-target John Stones also lined up for a very strong Everton side and it is the uncertainty over his future that has helped inform the link between Van Dijk and the Goodison Park club. Martinez would not talk about the Celtic player directly yesterday but admitted he was on the look-out for centre-half cover after Sylvain Distin and Antolim Alcaraz left the club during the summer.
“That’s the nature of this period, you are going to be linked with players,” he said. “I don’t enjoy talking about other players when they are not at our club and I will never be disrespectful in that manner. We are still looking for two positions. Our squad is not completed. We are looking for two positions and we need to make sure they fit in exactly in the group.
“But in terms of speaking about names, as you can understand, I wouldn’t be able to. Central defence is one of those positions. Two experienced centre-halves left the squad, so we need to fill those gaps.
“I’m still assessing two of the young players we’ve got in the squad and I’ve been very impressed in the last two weeks. I feel probably they are ready to stay in the first team. But maybe we need another new face in centre-half and then there’s another position where we are still lightweight. We will wait as long as we can to select the person we want.”
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson, meanwhile, has admitted the wait for Nigerian international Juwon Oshaniwa is getting beyond frustrating.
The Tynecastle side are due to start their competitive season on Thursday against Arbroath in the League Cup but Oshaniwa is kicking his heels in his home country as he waits for a visa backlog to clear. “We were told the visa would be processed in 15 days but that time is up now,” he said. “Apparently, there is a backlog but we’ve been told it could be today or tomorrow.
“We’ve been waiting and waiting. We have done everything we can. We’ve been on the phone constantly with the embassy to push it through but it takes time over there.
“I just hope he is training. We gave him a programme for training so hopefully he won’t be too far off when he gets here. It’s frustrating but he is worth the wait.”