Everton fear top scorer Saha will be on the move

Click to follow
The Independent Football

David Moyes, the Everton manager, has accepted that there is a risk of losing his striker Louis Saha, whose continued struggle with fitness has seen him back on the bench.

Everton are yet to tie Saha to a contract which would prevent the former France striker, who signed a two-year deal with the option of a third year when he moved to Goodison Park from Manchester United in 2008, becoming a free agent at the end of this season. "His contract is up in June so we know he can talk to foreign clubs in January," Moyes said. "We've been speaking to him. We are happy with him and we would like to keep him."

Saha, who has been linked with Roma, Bordeaux and Atletico Madrid, has made an impressive contribution this season – he is top scorer with 11 goals – but continues to struggle with the injuries which bedevilled him at Old Trafford and Moyes has adopted a strategy of periodically removing him from the side. "He's been complaining about a calf strain. We've brought him in and out. It was the same earlier in the season, I can think of Fulham [where he did not play] in particular. It got him up and running again."

Everton want to take up the option of a third year with Saha, with discussions to that end likely to take place in the new year. For the trip to Stamford Bridge today there is the memory for Saha of scoring the fastest goal in FA Cup final history – 25 seconds – in the 2-1 defeat by the west London side in May.

Moyes has the usual central defensive problems for the visit to Chelsea, with Sylvain Distin out for three weeks with a hamstring pull. He seems more likely to use Johnny Heitinga, who has played centre-half for the Netherlands, and Lucas Neill, than Tony Hibbert, who has also deputised there. "I don't think Tony sees himself playing there regularly," Moyes concluded.

Everton are looking to draw inspiration from their thrilling comeback to draw 2-2 against Tottenham last Sunday. "If you are not playing that well it can sometimes carry you through," Moyes said. "We need to show that in every game to have a chance of getting a result. You go 2-0 down, then you get a draw. It feels like a victory. But we have to make sure we don't get ourselves in the position again if we can help it. Maybe until we get enough people back we have to keep playing like this.

"Maybe something changed from the second half at Hull [when Everton were 3-0 down at half-time]. I think the players realise the effort they put in has to be greater if we are going to win games. There is a slight improvement, not as much as I'd like, but certainly with what I have available to me we are getting something out of the players."