Demarai Gray is expected to complete a £1.5m transfer only six months after leaving Leicester City for Bayer Leverkusen


Everton are closing in on deals for Demarai Gray, Andros Townsend and Asmir Begovic as Rafael Benitez makes his first moves in the transfer market this summer.

Gray, the former England Under-21 winger, is expected to complete a £1.5 million transfer to Goodison Park only six months after leaving Leicester City for Bayer Leverkusen in Germany. He has been offered a two-year contract with the option of another 12 months.

Benitez’s determination to add greater width to his side has also seen Everton move for the former England winger, Townsend, who is a free agent after his contract with Crystal Palace expired at the end of last season and is expected to sign a one-year deal with the option of another year.

Begovic is due to complete the triple swoop by signing as a free agent after leaving Bournemouth and will provide back up to first-choice goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

Robin Olsen, the Sweden goalkeeper, returned to Roma following the end of his loan spell with Everton last season, which left Benitez in need of a senior understudy for Pickford. Begovic, 34, is thought to have undergone a medical over the weekend ahead of signing a one-year deal with the option of another 12 months.

Gray won the Premier League title with Leicester in 2015/16 and made 169 appearances for the club before his departure for Leverkusen in January on an 18-month contract.

But Gray made just 12 appearances for Leverkusen and fans have yet to see the 25-year-old fulfil his potential. Townsend, 30, has spent the past five years at Palace after signing from Tottenham in 2016 and has 13 England caps to his name.

Benitez hopes the impending arrival of the pair will give Everton greater threat on the flank and provide a better supply chain for Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The new Everton manager talked last week about the importance of providing quality service for the England striker.

“It is very easy to see that we have a great centre-forward,” Benitez said. “He’s very good in the air, he can score goals, but we have to provide him with good crosses, good passes. We can improve in these areas and, from the wide areas, the crosses will come. When we can do that, the team will be a little bit better.”

Benitez is expected to keep faith with Alex Iwobi as things stand but another winger, Bernard, is one of several players for whom Everton are thought to be willing to listen to offers.

The former Liverpool, Chelsea and Newcastle manager also expects Richarlison to repay the support the club have given him by allowing him to compete in the Olympics following his involvement already this summer in the Copa America with Brazil. “He is happy because he can go there … and he knows he has to give us something back because we were supporting him,” Benitez said.

“[Missing the start of the season] could be something we can consider not great in the beginning but will be a massive boost for us in the rest of the season because he will try to deliver.”

Benitez, who said he was yet to make a decision over the captaincy, also offered a positive fitness update on Lucas Digne, who suffered an injury during France’s Euro 2020 match against Portugal last month. “I had contact with him, he is training well, doing his job and ready to join the team as soon as possible,” the manager said. “My exchange of messages with him has been good because he is telling me he is nearly ready.”