Stadium decision adds to Everton's woe over Moutinho

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The Independent Football

How much more uncomfortable can this summer get for Everton? At the end of a day in which chairman Bill Kenwright again insisted that he did not have the financial muscle to take them forward, plans for the club's move to a new stadium were thrown into doubt when they were called in by the Government.

The decision is a major setback blow to Everton's ambition to move to a 50,000-capacity arena in Kirkby. It will delay the £400m project for at least a year while the plans are submitted to a public inquiry and could conceivably kill off the scheme altogether.

One consolation for the Merseyside club is that Andy Johnson's move to Fulham moved a step closer yesterday and manager David Moyes could use £3m of the transfer fee for the striker to sign Alan Smith, who was left out of Newcastle's squad for the friendly against PSV Eindhoven last night.

Everton's outgoing chief executive Keith Wyness had suggested the Kirkby project being called in by the Government Office for the North might conceivably destroy the plan. Kenwright rejects that, but the anticipated delay creates further financial headaches. The club, which envisaged work on the stadium being under way by next year, admitted this week that the green light from planners would have made Kenwright's search for new investors far easier.

Everton already have planning permission for the scheme, a joint venture with Tesco. But they have also faced fierce opposition from Kirkby residents, with the development likely to change the face of the town's centre.

Their pursuit of players continues to be a laboured one, too. Kenwright remains intent on pursuing the signatures of Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho and Cameroon's Stephane M'Bia but the prospects of securing them also receded yesterday.

Though Moutinho remains a target, Sporting Lisbon have proved reluctant to negotiate and the club's president Filipe Soares Franco yesterday declared himself "quite optimistic and I'm convinced he is going to carry on with us."

Despite Moutinho being removed from training with Sporting's first team squad this week, Franco said: "He is a Sporting player and that's it. There's been plenty of rumours this summer and an offer was made, but we rejected it because it wasn't interesting for the club."

Meanwhile, M'Bia has declared that he is planning to sign a new contract with Rennes to stay at the club for one more season. The midfielder has been linked with a £6m move to Goodison Park, with Seville also interested.

Kenwright does not believe Champions League football is a realistic aspiration for Everton at present. But the chairman has dismissed talk of Moyes' departure, though the manager is still yet to sign a new contract.

"I do look at the clubs that have the Champions League status that brings in millions and have the multi-, multi-, multi-millionaires and the billionaires in them and think that's probably what it takes now to get a hugely successful club," Kenwright said.

"There's a part of me that hopes that's not true, but if you look at that top four and the consistency of the top four there's a lot of money floating around it and we at Everton do not have that money."