Ranking Best Young Prospects Everton Must Target in Summer Transfer Window
It's really hard to know what kind of position Everton will be in come the start of next season.
So many question marks hang over the club, ranging from whether or not David Moyes will choose to extend his current deal and stay on, to whether or not they'll be able to qualify for Europe.
Looking ahead to next season, it's difficult to predict with any certainty what the situation will be like, but regardless, there can be little doubt that Everton need to freshen things up a bit if they're to remain competitive in the EPL.
The current squad has been stretched thin, and although they do seem to have options, there are areas of the team which are crying out to be strengthened.
Here are five young players who Everton should be doing everything they can to sign once the transfer window opens again in the summer, if they really want to challenge at the top end of England's top flight.
We'll rank the players not just on their ability, but on what they might bring to this Everton side, and based on positions they ought to be prioritising.
5. James McCarthy (Wigan Athletic)
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Position: Central midfield
Wigan's combative Irish midfielder is just the sort of player who would fit perfectly into this current Everton side.
David Moyes has always built a team based on the character and mentality of his players, as much as their technical ability, and he's taken care to ensure that any new arrivals fit in with the club so as not to disrupt their strong team ethic.
McCarthy is a hard-working player, but he also possesses wonderful technique. After maturing with Wigan for a few seasons since his arrival from Hamilton Academical, the time is right for him to take the next step in his career.
4. Jordan Rhodes (Blackburn Rovers)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Nikica Jelavic was a big hit following his arrival on Merseyside, but as teams have started to cut off his supply and negate his threat, his production has slowed down.
Everton are desperately in need of another striker, either to play up front alongside Jelavic and give defences an additional threat to consider, or to compete with the Croatian for the lone striker role, and there's little doubt that it's an area they'll be looking to improve.
Jordan Rhodes has been on fire this season, scoring 26 goals in 45 appearances, and has shown no indication that he's struggling to live up to his hefty price tag.
A similar sum at least would be needed to persuade Blackburn to part with their star striker, but you have to feel as though it would be money well spent.
3. Christian Atsu (Porto)
Gallo Images/Getty Images
Ghana suffered another disappointing African Nations Cup, crashing out to underdogs Burkina Faso in the semi-finals, but one bright spot was the emergence of their young winger Christian Atsu.
Atsu was a constant threat to defences throughout the tournament with his trickery and his willingness to take people on, and he scored in his side's 3-0 group stage win over Niger, even if he's yet to fully convince that he has an end product to go with his dribbling.
Everton currently lack wingers, and as a result, they've been forced to try to shoehorn players like Steven Naismith and Steven Pienaar into playing on the flanks, out of their natural position.
Currently with Porto, where he featured prominently in this season's Champions League, Atsu is becoming a sought-after commodity in world football. While Everton would love to have a player of his talent in their lineup, the spending power of other sides might rule them out if a bidding war starts.
2. Victor Wanyama (Celtic)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
Position: Central midfield
Perhaps the second biggest question surrounding Everton this summer, after that regarding the future of David Moyes, concerns Marouane Fellaini and his possible departure from the club.
Should he leave, Everton will need to find a replacement to fill the gaping hole in the centre of the park, and while Victor Wanyama wouldn't be a like-for-like replacement as such, he fits the profile of the sort of player who would instantly be able to step in and have an impact.
Wanyama's performances this season in the Champions League have displayed a maturity that belies his young age, and he has all of the talent and physicality to become a dominant midfielder in the EPL.
As much as there has been a lot of talk about a potential transfer to Manchester United, a move to a club the calibre of Everton, acting as a sort of stepping stone, seems more on the cards.
1. Dejan Lovren (Olympique Lyonnais)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Position: Central defence
Something which has become increasingly clear as the season has progressed is Everton's weakness in central defence.
John Heitinga has time and time again looked suspect, and both Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka are starting to show signs of fallibility where, previously, they'd been immensely reliable.
An injection of youth might be exactly what's required, and just a few months short of his 24th birthday, Dejan Lovren seems as good a candidate as any.
Strong in the tackle and good in the air, Lovren is equally accomplished on the ball, and has the sort of cool and composure which is so valuable in the modern game.
He's been an integral part of a Lyon side who rely on their defensive solidity, having conceded 26 goals in 28 games played in the league, but could be tempted by a move to the EPL in the summer.
Everton should do all they can to make sure that if he is, they're in position to snap him up.