EVERTON are closely monitoring Steven Naismith’s bid to walk away from Rangers as a free agent before making a potential move for the Scotland striker.
The 25-year-old does not wish to be part of the uncertain new era at Ibrox, and alongside team-mate Steven Whittaker has announced that he wants a fresh start away from the stricken club.
But the Charles Green consortium that bought Rangers’ assets say they will take legal action to block the moves, and warned off potential suitors for the players with threats they would pursue damages.
David Moyes is interested in giving Naismith the chance to reprise the impressive attacking partnership he formed with Nikica Jelavic at Rangers before the Croatian signed for the Toffees in January, but will only be able to move quickly if no transfer fee is involved.
Naismith is seen as a candidate to fill the number 10 role at Goodison, an area where Moyes wants to add competition, and although he has suffered two serious knee ligament injuries during his time at Rangers, a cut-price deal would represent a risk worth taking.
Although Green was in defiant move yesterday, Scotland’s Professional Football Association have previously stated that players were entitled to become free agents if they objected to the transfer of their contracts to the new company.
After Naismith and Scotland international right-back Whittaker had explained the reasons behind their decision at a media conference, Green was quick to issue his own rebuttal. He said in a statement: “It is a great pity that certain players have chosen this time to attempt to tear up their contracts and walk away from the club.
“The club is facing massive challenges in terms of its league status and the last thing the fans want to see is a dispute between the club and players.
“However, it appears that is the route several players are choosing. I can assure those players and clubs who may be interested in signing them that Rangers will seek damages for breach of contract.”
Green’s Sevco consortium completed the purchase of the business and assets of Rangers for £5.5million when the club was consigned to liquidation after failure to secure a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).
He added: “When the players agreed to take wage cuts earlier this year they renegotiated their contracts to allow them to leave for reduced values.
“That was a sensible quid pro quo and meant that the club would still get some transfer value for them should they leave. What is happening now is that the players want to leave for nothing, thereby denying the club any transfer value at all. At the same time, players who are ready to breach their contracts want to secure handsome signing on fees.”
Naismith said uncertainty over which division Rangers will play in next season was a key factor in his decision. Hibernian last night joined Hearts and Dundee United in going public with plans to vote against the newco’s application for entry to the SPL when the 12 top-flight clubs vote on the issue on July 4.