The future of Joleon Lescott should become much clearer in the next 48 hours after Everton turned down the defender's transfer request.
After an intense period of speculation, Lescott presented a formal request to leave Goodison Park to the Everton board on Monday night, hoping they would grant him the opportunity to join Manchester City. The response was terse and to the point.
"I have always said that we are not selling any players and that hasn't changed," manager David Moyes told www.evertonfc.com.
However, after rejecting bids of £15million and £18million from the cash-rich Eastlands outfit, Everton may have left the door open for a third offer.
Contrary to popular belief, City are working to a budget on the Lescott deal, which is believed to be £20million.
While that figure could be nudged up a touch should the Toffeemen indicate their willingness to play ball, there is clearly not much room for manoeuvre.
So, having acknowledged the 26-year-old wishes to leave Goodison Park, Everton are now bracing themselves for a third bid.
Should this receive the same reaction as the last two, City are likely to turn their attentions elsewhere, just as they looked set to do at the weekend before apparently receiving positive indications about the transfer being pushed through.
However, there remains enough optimism about the potential for a deal to encourage City to pursue the matter further, which is why bids for Matthew Upson and former City skipper Sylvain Distin will not be made until a conclusion is reached, with the possibility of Lescott taking direct action not being entirely ruled out once he gets back from England's friendly with Holland in Amsterdam.
Manager Mark Hughes was determined to sign another central defender even before Kolo Toure limped out of Saturday's friendly win over Celtic.
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