Everton locking horns with Europe’s elite over Colombian defender Murillo
Colombian centre back Jeison Murillo is a summer target for Everton as Roberto Martinez considers adding to his defensive options.
The Toffees, who are 14/1 for a top-four Premier League finish with Coral, will face stiff competition to sign the 21-year-old from European heavyweights Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan.
Murillo has helped current club Granada keep nine clean sheets in 24 La Liga appearances this season, and they have extended his contract until 2019. He now has a reported buyout clause of £29m.
Such a high valuation may see Everton chairman Bill Kenwright baulk, but Champions League quarter-finalists Atletico and Inter, bankrolled by the billions of Erik Thohir, can certainly afford Murillo.
Granada are owned by the Pozzo family, who control Serie A side Udinese – where he started his senior club career – and Championship club Watford (10/1 for a top-six second-tier finish).
Atletico are understood to be in pole position for Murillo’s signature, as Diego Simeone seeks competition for Uruguay defender Diego Godin and Brazilian centre half Joao Miranda at the Vicente Calderon.
Inter, meanwhile, have already secured outgoing Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic for next season. They are expected to recruit en masse this summer, as they want to mount a Serie A title tilt under Walter Mazzarri and challenge Juventus’ recent dominance.
Martinez is no stranger to bringing in Latin American talent. During his spell at Wigan Athletic, the Toffees boss signed several Honduras internationals, including Stoke City midfielder Wilson Palacios and Hull City defender Maynor Figueroa.
Paraguay centre back Antolin Alcaraz even followed Martinez from the Latics to Everton last summer. Murillo is yet to receive a senior call-up from Colombia, but has been capped at Under-20 level and was part of the winning squad at the 2011 Toulon Tournament.
National coach Jose Perkerman may include him on his World Cup roster, however, as his first-choice centre back pairing Mario Yepes and Luis Amaranto Perea have a combined age of 73. AC Milan’s Cristian Zapata is also another option for the heart of defence in the current squad.
Colombia have been drawn with Euro 2004 winners Greece, the Ivory Coast and Japan in World Cup Group C. They are odds-on favourites both to top the pool (8/11) and qualify for the knockout phase (1/4). Back Colombia to win their opening match in Brazil against the Greeks at 8/13 or lift the World Cup at 22/1.