Everton will continue to closely monitor Dwight McNeil during the 2021/22 season with a view to signing the Burnley midfielder next summer, according to the Liverpool Echo.
Rafa Benitez has followed McNeil’s progress at Turf Moor for some time and believes the 21-year-old would fit in well at Goodison Park. The Spaniard admires the Clarets product’s crossing ability, and volume of deliveries into the box, along with his excellent work-rate.
Benitez additionally feels McNeil’s repertoire of skills displayed in Lancashire makes him a good all-rounder, but with scope to improve. Burnley boss Sean Dyche considers the left-winger’s upper body strength to be one area he needs to develop.
Everton chiefs considered signing McNeil this summer as their big-ticket acquisition, but the Toffees’ difficult finances ruled out a swoop. The Merseysiders were ready to start bidding at £25m, yet faced paying closer to £50m for the England U21 international.
Dyche made clear Burnley would resist interest in McNeil, as his crosses – combined with Chris Wood’s aerial threat – are integral at Turf Moor. Aston Villa also hold an interest in the ex-Manchester United trainee, although did not formalise their position this summer.
Everton and Benitez will now continue to closely monitor how McNeil performs at Burnley this season. The Toffees will reassess their interest in the Rochdale-born dynamo after the closure of the January transfer window when they begin to plan their summer spending.
Burnley will be under no pressure to sell their prised asset next summer with McNeil under contract until 2024. His deal, believed to be worth around £40-45k-a-week also includes an option to extend by 12-months. He signed a long-term deal with the Clarets last October.
Should Everton revive their interest in Benitez target and Burnley star McNeil?
Everton could not spend as they or Benitez would have liked this summer with the club’s budget capped by Financial Fair Play. It meant Burnley were able to retain McNeil with far less of a fight than Dyche may have initially expected.
McNeil has been unable to help the Clarets claim a maiden win of the new Premier League season, though. He started each of their defeats to Brighton and Liverpool, plus a 1-1 draw with Leeds before the international break. But was instrumental last season, with a team-high five assists and two goals in 36 top-flight appearances.
Dyche has long been singing McNeil’s praises before Everton explored signing Burnley’s wide maestro this summer. He once said of the 21-year-old, via the Lancashire Telegraph: “Fantastic, he’s a real talent. I’ve said it for weeks now, and a long time ago when he first came into the side.
“He’s a really good player, he’s improving, his calmness at the end – I’m saying get it in the corner – but he cuts in, and his calmness to cross it into a dangerous area, and then gets his reward. Before then, his calmness to dribble out of trouble – he’s a really good player, really good, and he can only mature.”