West Brom boss Alan Pardew admits he fears losing Jonny Evans next month amid renewed speculation regarding the Albion captain.
Evans was a summer transfer target for Manchester City, Arsenal and Leicester, with all three clubs having offers for the 29-year-old turned down as West Brom stuck to an asking price in excess of £30million.
Recent reports have suggested City and the Gunners remain interested in signing Evans and both will return to test the Baggies’ resolve when the transfer window opens again on January 1.
City manager Pep Guardiola is still keen to add a new centre-half to his squad, with the absence of John Stones due to a hamstring injury heightening the Premier League leaders’ need for defensive additions.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, will see Per Mertesacker retire at the end of the current campaign.
Evans has 18 months remaining on his contract at The Hawthorns and, while committed to West Brom, it is difficult to see the former Manchester United player signing a new deal with the prospect of European football on offer elsewhere.
“There’s interest in him because there was interest in the summer and it makes sense to stir it up – it makes good headlines for the media and I understand that and we deal with it,” said Pardew, who will take charge of West Brom for the second time against Swansea on Saturday.
“Jonny’s dealt with it in his way. He was terrific for me against Crystal Palace, I can only go on his performance and I thought he was outstanding.
“You are never confident when you’ve got great players because other clubs want great players so your best players are always vulnerable.
“Jonny Evans is certainly one of them, and he’s our captain. Do I want to lose him? Of course not. Do I fear losing him? Of course I do.”
A goalless draw at home to Palace, Pardew’s former club, last weekend left West Brom without a win in 13 Premier League games and just one place above the relegation zone.
Albion travel to bottom-of-the-table Swansea on Saturday knowing a win in south Wales would open up a seven-point gap over their opponents.
Asked if the match at the Liberty Stadium was a six-pointer, Pardew said: “No. A six-pointer is when there’s two games to go and you need to win six points to stay in the division. This is just three points in a season.
“We need to win at least nine games to be safe and hopefully after Saturday it’ll be eight games.”