Everton could lose starlet Thierry Small this summer, with the Express claiming he could snub a new deal in favour of first-team football elsewhere.
Small first joined Everton aged 11, having spent time with West Bromwich Albion before that. He has earned rave reviews in the Everton youth system since then.
Those performances saw the player handed a first-team opportunity, making his senior debut for Everton in the FA Cup clash with Sheffield Wednesday in January.
That appearance also made Small the club’s youngest ever player, aged 16 years and 176 days on his debut.
However, it has been somewhat difficult for the exciting left-back over the past few months.
With Lucas Digne’s form impressive and Niels Nkounkou in reserve, first-team opportunities for Small have been hard to come by.
Ben Godfrey has even been preferred in the left-back role to Nkounkou and Small at times this season.
As a result, the Express says that Small could snub a professional three-year deal in search of first-team football elsewhere.
It is claimed Small will prioritise his breakthrough in the men’s game and would be willing to snub interest from the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal.
Brighton & Hove Albion, Leeds United and Brentford are all interested in the youngster, with first-team opportunities likely to be more readily available.
Despite interest from elsewhere, it is said Everton remain ‘desperate’ to keep the player ‘at all costs’.
SL View – Can Everton keep hold of Small?
This will come as a huge blow for Everton, with Thierry Small being one of the best talents in the country right now.
With Digne, Nkounkou and Godfrey all ahead of him in the pecking order for the left-back position, it’s no surprise that he may be looking elsewhere.
However, the best solution for Everton would be to find him a loan move for next season as part of his new deal.
Should that satisfy his desire for first-team football, the Toffees may be able to secure his future at the club with a long-term contract.
With Small possibly Everton’s biggest academy prospect, the club must do all they can to keep him at the club.