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By Neil Wood

Injury concerns in pre-season preparations are never the ideal start for the challenges that lay ahead – and Everton look to be without one of their regular first-team players, Ramiro Funes Mori, for the start of the 2017-18 Premier League campaign.

The Toffees centre-half’s knee ailment looks worse than was first thought, with Times journalist Paul Joyce stating that the South American will be out of action for a few more months.

— paul joyce (@_pauljoyce) July 13, 2017

Funes Mori suffered a torn meniscus whilst on international duty with Argentina at the end of May and there are suggestions that the former River Plate man could be out for another three months as the injury has re-occurred.

Joyce has stated that the Everton defender’s setback could well force Ronald Koeman’s hand in the transfer market, with potential for a new signing to be made as cover.

In addition to his preferred centre-back role, Funes Mori provides vital cover for Leighton Baines.

Blessed with excellent aerial ability in both boxes, his loss will be a blow to the Blues and leave Everton with limited options on the left-hand side of defence.

Everton do have Luke Garbutt back at the club following his loan spell last season with Wigan Athletic but given he has only played a handful of first-team appearances, coupled with Everton’s hunger for success, reinforcements of a higher calibre will surely be sought.

But, should Koeman look to add another defender, and if so, who?

Everton are linked with new players on a daily basis, but the most-predominant defensive whisperings come in the form of Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk.

The Netherlands international would fit the profile almost perfectly and whilst this will clearly be an expensive option, the chance of one-upmanship on their neighbours Liverpool would send Toffees fans delirious.

Since his reported £13 million move from Celtic to Southampton, Van Dijk’s stock has risen considerably as he has starred for the Saints in the Premier League.

The 26-year-old’s nationality and previous spell under Koeman’s stewardship at Southampton could stand Everton in good stead and potentially give them an advantage over any other suitors.

However, with the inflated prices currently being paid by Premier League teams, Van Dijk will not come cheap.

Although some reports suggest that Southampton would want as much as £60 million for the star defender, Everton should tempt the south-coast club with a club-record offer this summer.