Everton close to admitting defeat in fight for Pienaar

Everton's hopes of keeping Steven Pienaar receded last night after Phil Neville revealed that the club had exhausted every avenue in their efforts to ensure the influential South African stays at Goodison Park.

Pienaar appears increasingly likely to leave the club he has served since 2007 when his contract expires at the end of the season.

The Everton manager, David Moyes, has made it clear he does not want to lose the player, who has proved one of his shrewdest signings after costing £2m from Borussia Dortmund.

But Pienaar, rated at £15m by Everton, is free to enter into a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club in January after stalling on a lucrative new contract.

Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham and Internazionale are monitoring developments closely, although the 28-year-old appears in no hurry to commit himself.

Neville is desperate for Pienaar to stay, but the Everton captain believes the club cannot do anything more to persuade him that his future lies with them.

"It would be a massive blow to lose him," said Neville. "He's such an influential character. But it happened to Joleon Lescott and we did not want him to move.

"You can say to Steven every minute of the day that we don't want him to leave. But at the end of the day, it's his decision. He's from South Africa, he's played for Ajax, then Dortmund. Now he's been to Everton and had the happiest days of his career, I think.

"The club wants him to stay, but there's not much else we can say. He's probably weighing up his options now and you just hope for our sake that he signs."

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