Everton steal a march on Arsenal in race for Belgian ace

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Everton have sped ahead of Arsenal in the race to sign young Standard Liege forward Michy Batshuayi, who’s scored 15 goals in 18 league starts this term.

The Gunners have been chasing Batshuayi for some time, but Toffees boss Roberto Martinez has looked to capitalise on the north Londoners dithering by declaring an interest in the Brussels-born hotshot.

Everton rate good value at 9/2 to break into the Premier League top-four this season, having racked up 41 points after 20 games, which puts them just a point behind city rivals Liverpool in fourth place.

Romelu Lukaku has proved a fantastic loan signing from Chelsea, with nine goals and four assists provided by the big Belgian in the league already, but his stay on Merseyside is only likely to be temporary.

Martinez is desperately trying to hawk out-of-favour forward Nikica Jelavic to the highest bidder and Arouna Kone, who the Spaniard had at Wigan, is yet to start a top-flight game for the Toffees due to injury.

The signing of Republic of Ireland left-winger Aiden McGeady should free up another Belgian, Kevin Mirallas, to play up front more often, but the former Olympiakos man has only bagged nine times in 48 league appearances for the Goodison Park outfit.

With all this in mind, Everton have decided to move for one of the most promising talents in the Jupiler Pro League, but they face a battle with Batshuayi’s current employers to land the 20-year-old, who’s struck five times in 10 games for Belgium’s Under-21s.

Batshuayi’s contract is thought to contain a clause that would allow the player to leave if a team bids £7m for him, but Standard want all the money in one go, whereas Everton were hoping to pay the fee in a series of instalments.

However, the 5ft 11in striker could force the Belgian league leaders’ hand, as he is thought to favour a move straight away and talks have already taken place between his representatives and the Merseyside club.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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