BARCELONA are ready to plan a move for Mikel Arteta having grown frustrated at their attempts to prise Cesc Fabregas away from Arsenal.
The Spanish giants have been linked with Fabregas all summer despite Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger having stated the midfielder will not be allowed to depart during the transfer window.
Fabregas spoke last week about being torn between moving to Barcelona, where he started out as a youngster, or staying at Arsenal, where his career has blossomed since arriving as a 16-year-old seven years ago.
Barcelona, though, are losing patience with the current impasse and have drawn up alternative transfer options should they miss out on their preferred target.
And reports in Spain claim that high on the Catalans’ list is Arteta, who has already been in strong demand this summer.
Manchester City are still contemplating a big-money move for the Spanish schemer, Sevilla have also sounded an interest while, ironically, Arsenal are thought to have pinpointed the 28-year-old as the replacement for Fabregas should he leave for the Camp Nou.
Another Everton player the subject of increasing speculation is Steven Pienaar, who has entered the final year of his Goodison contract with agreement over a new deal not yet in sight.
The South Africa international made his first appearance of the pre-season programme in the 4-2 win over Norwich City at the weekend having returned from an extended break following the World Cup.
And for now Pienaar is determined to keep his focus on his present club and believes David Moyes’s side can challenge for a top-four place following their strong second-half showing in the previous Premier League campaign.
“It’s good to feel at home again,” said the midfielder. “I missed the guys so it’s always good to be back.
“For me it is important to get fit and to play a few more games. We have got two more friendly games to go so it is important to get through it without injuries and make sure you get fitter and start the league with high spirit and full of confidence.
“We all know that if we ever felt we had a totally fit squad, we can compete for a Champions League place and I think the players are up for the challenge.
“Because of the support for us to do well, that is why we are playing – to make the supporters happy.”
Meanwhile, Blackpool manager Ian Holloway is poised to admit defeat in his attempts to re-sign Seamus Coleman on loan.
The 21-year-old full-back spent a spell at Bloomfield Road at the end of last season and played a major part in the Seasiders’ promotion to the Premier League through the play-offs.
Coleman is highly-rated by Everton manager David Moyes and made a sparkling top-flight debut against Tottenham Hotspur last November.
The Republic of Ireland under-21 has been heavily involved in Everton’s pre-season preparations, and now Holloway concedes it is unlikely the player will be back at Blackpool any time soon.
“He is playing so well that David Moyes won’t want to let him go,” said Holloway.
“I’ve asked him, I’ve left messages, I’ve spoken to Moyesy’s brother (agent Kenny), so I’m trying all I can.
“However, I think the honest answer is probably no. But I’ve got other targets I’m waiting on as well.”