Everton have added Dwight McNeil to their growing list of winger targets, but Aston Villa remain in pole position for his signature, according to reports.
McNeil has established himself as one of the most promising homegrown talents outside the top six with his displays for Burnley in recent years. Last season, he scored two goals and added five assists from 36 Premier League appearances. At the age of 21, he is already a key man for Sean Dyche’s side.
Burnley will be aware that they will have to fend off interest in the winger. He has already been heavily linked with Aston Villa, who are looking to further strengthen their squad.
Strengthening out wide seems to be a priority task for Everton this summer. They are close to completing the signings of Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend, but may not be finished there. It seems McNeil is also under consideration.
While Gray and Townsend will be budget reinforcements, Everton could spend a larger sum on McNeil. Burnley are reportedly holding out for a fee of around £25m if they are to cash in on the former Manchester United youth player.
At present, despite Everton’s entry into the running, Aston Villa remain the favourites to do such a deal. They have already signed Emiliano Buendia to ease the burden on Jack Grealish and are still chasing another attacking midfielder.
McNeil could be the man they pursue, although they may have to act quicker now that there is competition.
Villa switch focus from Smith Rowe to McNeil?
As Villa aim to stay ahead of Everton in the race for McNeil’s signature, it may be an indication that they have given up on Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe.
While Smith Rowe plays more centrally than McNeil, Villa have been linked with taking the Arsenal youngster instead. They have reportedly seen a number of approaches rejected.
Smith Rowe scored in Arsenal’s first pre-season fixture last week, after which Mikel Arteta ruled out the prospect of him leaving.
When asked if he expects Smith Rowe to still be an Arsenal player come the end of the window, Arteta offered a firm response.
“Without a question. Yes. He will stay here. 100%.”
Hence, Villa will have to turn their focus elsewhere – seemingly to McNeil. They will be wary of the growing competition from Everton, though.