Everton have condemned “vile” racist abuse aimed at midfielder Amadou Onana on social media and vowed to track down the alleged perpetrator.
The Premier League club released a statement on Monday revealing the 22-year-old Senegal-born Belgium international had been targeted and reiterating its zero-tolerance stance on discrimination.
An investigation is under way with the Toffees ready to support police in any action they may take.
The statement read: “Everton Football Club strongly condemns any form of racist and discriminatory abuse towards our players.
“The club is aware of a racist post targeted at Amadou Onana. Such abuse is vile and will not and should not be tolerated.
“The club is conducting an investigation to identify the individual responsible and will also be supporting police with any investigation they conduct.
“We must all take a zero-tolerance stance by reporting such behaviour to social media platforms and the authorities. Racism has no place online, in our stadia or in our communities.”
Onana, a £34million signing from French club Lille last summer, played the full 90 minutes in Sunday’s 4-0 Premier League defeat at Aston Villa.
The defensive midfielder has been linked with a move to Manchester United in recent weeks.
A Merseyside Police spokesperson said: “Merseyside Police can confirm an investigation is underway after it was reported racist comments were made on social media directed towards an Everton player.
“We are committed to working closely with football clubs and ‘Kick it Out’, English football’s equality and inclusion organisation, to tackle racism and discrimination in football.
“It is appalling to think that anyone would use an online platform to target anyone with abuse based on their race and we condemn such behaviour in the strongest terms.
“We take all reports of hate crime extremely seriously, and I would like to remind social media users that any belief that they can maintain anonymity online to commit offences is misplaced. Offences committed online, including malicious communications and any inappropriate behaviour, can be investigated.”
Meanwhile, Sky Bet Championship Leeds revealed want-away striker Willy Gnonto had also been subjected to online abuse and confirmed that police were investigating.
A statement on the club’s official website said: “A racist comment made on social media towards Willy Gnonto has been brought to our attention. Leeds United condemn this action in the strongest possible way.
“An investigation is now under way and the police have been notified. Racism will not be tolerated at Leeds United.
“The club will support Willy and anyone else connected to our club who experiences racism or any form of discrimination.”
Italy international Gnonto, 19, has asked to leave the Elland Road club in the wake of last season’s relegation from the top flight and was linked with a move to Everton earlier this summer.
A spokesperson for West Yorkshire Police said: “We have been notified by Leeds United of a racist comment made on social media towards Willy Gnonto and we are working with the club to investigate the matter.
“We will always take reports of hate crime seriously and do everything we can to support victims and take positive action against offenders.”