Everton are firmly in the running to sign Leeds United’s Sam Byram after sending one of their senior scouts to watch the youngster during last night’s 2-1 defeat to Ipswich Town.
Former Everton player Ian Atkins, who heads up the Merseyside club’s European scouting network, attended Portman Road with orders to assess Byram as manager Roberto Martinez stepped up his interest in the 22-year-old.
Everton have long been linked with Byram, who is likely to leave Elland Road this month, and Atkins’ presence at Ipswich indicated that Martinez remains intent on securing Byram’s signature before the January transfer window closes.
Leeds have received approaches for Byram, who turned down the offer of a new deal before Christmas and is out of contract at the end of this season, and the club are ready to sell their former player of the year if his valuation is met.
West Ham United are also keenly interested in him but Byram is understood to favour the idea of a move to Goodison Park and Martinez is currently short of options at right-back after losing Seamus Coleman to a calf injury.
Byram, a recognised defender for most of his career, has been playing as a winger for Leeds in the past month and caught the eye in that role after suffering a prolonged loss of form earlier in the season.
Byram’s dip came amid persistent questions about his future, questions brought on by Leeds’ failure to extend his dwindling contract.
The club’s academy product was angered by an offer from owner Massimo Cellino in 2014 which proposed to cut his wage in return for a lengthy deal and negotiations broke down soon after.
Leeds went back to him last month, proposing to match his existing £12,000-a-week salary and prolong his agreement to 2017, but Byram - the leading appearance-maker in United’s squad despite his young age - rejected those terms and has not received another offer.
Evans revealed recently that a number of Premier League managers had been in touch with him about Byram but Leeds are yet to accept any bids, despite Evans claiming last weekend that the club are sitting on bids for individual players worth in excess of £30m.
Evans said: “It’s in excess of £30m, the offers on the table for different players.
“If it was that for one player then I’d probably get the order to drive him there but it isn’t. It’s different players and I was with the president and we’re not selling anyone as we sit here.”