Everton are stepping up their efforts to sign Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma on a permanent deal.
The 24-year-old France defender had a highly successful loan spell at Goodison Park last season.
Any proposed deal will have to be signed off by Chelsea’s new manager, who is expected to be Frank Lampard.
Everton have made Zouma their next top transfer priority after signing Portugal midfielder Andre Gomes from Barcelona in a £22m deal.
Chelsea are expected to demand in excess of £30m if they decide to sell but Everton manager Marco Silva and director of football Marcel Brands are determined to bring Zouma back to Merseyside. It is understood the player would also be happy to return if he fails to receive assurances about first-team football at Stamford Bridge.
Zouma’s next destination will be in the hands of their new manager, almost certainly Lampard.
He will make final decision as Chelsea could also be operating under a two-window transfer ban following an investigation into their signing of foreign under-18 players. They are currently appealing to the Court Of Arbitration For Sport.
Everton will test Chelsea’s resolve as they seek to strengthen their central defensive resources following the decision to let captain Phil Jagielka leave, with Zouma their first choice to fill the gap.
Brands and Silva are determined to build on Everton’s promising finish to last season which brought victories over Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. They see the pursuit of Zouma as a key part of their plans after concluding a deal with Barcelona for Gomes, who also had a loan spell on Merseyside last season.
In what could be a busy summer at Goodison Park, Everton are also actively pursuing a deal for a striker, with Turkey international Cenk Tosun failing to make a serious impact following his £27m move from Besiktas in January 2018.
A right-back will also be sought after England under-21 defender Jonjoe Kenny was allowed to join Bundesliga side Schalke on a season-long loan.