Rafa Benitez risks upsetting the Newcastle fans who idolised him if Everton make a £50million move for Toon talisman Allan Saint-Maximin.
Former Liverpool manager Benitez has already caused a major stir with his hugely-controversial Goodison Park appointment.
And sources close to the Spaniards camp say Saint-Maximin will be a target should ex-Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti another admirer of the Frenchman swoop to take Toffees Brazilian forward Richarlison to Real Madrid.
That will surprise many of the Geordie faithful after Benitez, as Newcastle boss, was said to be against signing Saint-Maximin two years ago.
But the explosive winger, whose £16.5m move from Nice was completed after Benitez left and Steve Bruce took charge, has been a revelation on Tyneside.
Rafa Benitez could create enemies in his former followers if he raids old club Newcastle (Image: REUTERS)
Newcastle handed Saint-Maximin, 24, a new six-year contract last October and are understood to have placed a £60m valuation on him in an effort to fend off interest.
But he has warned the Magpies they must match his ambitions, and Everton may test their resolve with an offer approaching the asking price if Richarlison goes.
Everton have reportedly already turned down an approach from Paris Saint-Germain for forward Moise Kean as they are not prepared to let him leave on another loan deal.
That suggests only a permanent sale will be available to the French club, in order for Benitez to have funds to reinvest into his playing squad, with Norwich’s Max Aarons, PSV’s Denzel Dumfries and Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma all linked.
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Whether Everton can withstand a bid from Real Madrid for Richarlison is another matter, though.
The 24-year-old has a good relationship with Carlo Ancelotti and would no doubt welcome the opportunity to play for one of the world’s biggest clubs.
Much could depend on the transfer kitty available to Ancelotti amid Madrid’s difficult financial situation, as the fee for Richarlison would need to eclipse the £35m Everton paid for him in 2018.
Benitez could yet be without Richarlison for the opening weekend of the season after Everton granted him permission to represent Brazil in the Olympic Games.
Everton kick-off their campaign with a tricky trip to Old Trafford on August 7 – the same day the Olympics is due to end.
Meanwhile, Everton are sweating over the future of promising youngster Thierry Small as he continues to stall over a new contract.
The Liverpool Echo report that the club are not sure whether the 16-year-old will put pen to paper on professional terms when he turns 17.
Both Arsenal and Manchester United are said to be interested in snatching Small away from Everton, where he has been since the age of 11.
An offer has been made to the England youth left-back but he yet to make any indication as to whether he will sign.
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