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Martinez’s Toffees prepare for Stones departure with Zapata swoop

Every summer there is an drawn-out transfer saga which dominates the headlines for months, and this year Everton have been at the centre of such a distraction, with John Stones being heavily sought-after by Premier League champions Chelsea.

Although, Toffees boss Roberto Martinez has reportedly lined up AC Milan’s experienced defender Christian Zapata as a potential replacement, if Stones does eventually agree to join Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.

Martinez’s men began the new campaign with a stuttering 2-2 draw against newly promoted Watford at Goodison Park and are 9/2 with Coral to secure a top six finish this season.

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Having already rejected two substantial bids from the Blues this summer, Everton are trying desperately to retain the services of their young England international Stones, but a smart move for Zapata is patiently in waiting.

Colombia international Zapata would provide a great deal of calmness to the Toffees’ rearguard, and an abundance of experience, something which has been lacking since veteran defender Sylvain Distin departed for top-flight newcomers Bournemouth.

Celtic’s Virgil van Dijk was also a recent target, but the Scottish champions look capable of keeping hold of the Dutchman, having closed in on a place in the Champions League group stages this term.

Although, 28-year-old Zapata could potentially be a great signing at Goodison, having fallen down the pecking order at the San Siro of late, with Brazilian Alex, Philippe Mexes and Gabriel Paletta more in favour in Italy.

The former Villarreal utility player can deputise at right back, as well as his familiar central defensive role, potentially giving Martinez options to switch his side around during the course of the campaign.

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Also, the Rossoneri could be willing to part with their defender, as he enters the final year of his deal in Milan, being tempted to sell now rather than risk losing him for nothing later this campaign.

Recently appointed Milan boss Sinisa Mihajlovic is keen to offload any squad players this summer, as he aims to revamp the stuttering San Siro side ahead of a hopeful season, in which they are 7/4 to finish in the top three of Serie A.

Martinez is clearly in favour of keeping Stones on the blue half of Merseyside, but a move for Zapata in reserve could end up being smart business if the 21-year-old does ultimately switch blue allegiances this summer.