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Joao Moutinho 'Definitely Leaving' Sporting Lisbon But With £17m Price Tag

By Andy Brassell

Sporting Lisbon's highly-rated captain Joao Moutinho is set for the exit door as part of a summer of major restructuring at the Estadio Jose Alvalade, with Everton leading a pack of clubs chasing the midfielder's signature, UK can reveal.

However, Sporting are likely to demand at least €20m (£17.4m) to let him leave Lisbon, a fee that would break Everton's club transfer record.

The 23-year-old Moutinho has made it known that he expects to make his long-mooted move abroad this summer, and is receptive to the overtures of the Premier League club.

"Joao is definitely leaving," said a source close to the player. "Sporting are going into a new cycle and he believes it's time for him to further his career. Everton are showing strong interest once again."

Moutinho's omission from Carlos Queiroz's World Cup squad has only strengthened his resolve to depart. "He feels he has become a little stuck," the source said. "He wants to be playing at the top level for club and country."

An energetic box-to-box midfielder, the Algarve native first attracted the interest of David Moyes in July 2008, when the Toffees had a €15m (£11.8m) bid for him rejected, much to Moutinho's displeasure. At the time the buy-out clause in Moutinho's contract stood at €25m, but when he signed an extension to 2014 last summer, the amount was dropped to €22.5m.

Sporting have insisted they will not let either their skipper or fellow midfielder Miguel Veloso go on the cheap, and are not keen to drop their price below the €20m mark. They are, however, understood to be willing to negotiate for a player who was once tracked by Barcelona, but was below par as Sporting suffered a poor season.

Having missed out on the Champions League, new coach Paulo Sergio is set to instigate sweeping changes, and a few big name departures are intended to give him capital to work with. Sporting are already lining up midfield reinforcements, and are in discussions with Maniche after the veteran was released by Koeln.

Some reports in Portugal suggest Moyes may attempt a move for both Moutinho and Veloso, but the latter seems more likely to switch to Italy, with both Inter and Fiorentina poised. Should Everton meet Sporting's asking price, it would eclipse the £15m the Goodison Park club paid for Marouane Fellaini in 2008.

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