As one rival for the signature of Milan Baros dropped out another entered the chase yesterday when Everton joined Aston Villa in their pursuit of the Liverpool striker.
Baros looked to have escaped David O'Leary's men when he was reported to have agreed personal terms with Bundesliga outfit Schalke 04 at the weekend, only for the Germans to end their interest when it became clear they could not afford the £7 million asking price.
That seemed to leave Villa, who are desperate to replace Darius Vassell after he moved to Manchester City, in pole position to land the leading scorer of Euro 2004.
But Everton's stated intent will set ringing every alarm bell within a two-mile radius of Villa Park as O'Leary scraps for the meagre attacking options available.
He could really do without the Goodison Park club making life difficult after their chief executive, Keith Wyness, confirmed that the Czech international was one of a number of strikers they had targeted.
Wyness said: "We are looking at a number of different striking options and we are currently reviewing them all. Baros is one of the names on the list."
With Everton able to offer the possibility of Champions' League football, should they see off Villareal in a two-leg qualifier, and equally desperate for a striker of Baros' pedigree, the Toffees could be more viable challengers that Schalke were.
Villa have had one bid rejected by Liverpool, believed to be about £5million, and although there were reports of a second, improved offer, the club last night denied making another move.
If Baros refuses to come to the Midlands O'Leary would be looking elsewhere with Manchester United's Louis Saha a possibility. The Irishman was also linked with Monaco forward Emmanuel Adebayor who is set to leave the French side.
The Togo international, aged 21, has also been tracked by West Ham and Arsenal and wants a bigger contract from his current employers. "He was wanting to increase his salary and to continue with Monaco," club spokesman Pierre-Joseph Gadeau said. "Both of them, most of the time, can go together but if we can find a handy solution Emmanuel is probably going to be sold."
Adebayor has scored 17 goals in two season since moving to the Principality from Metz in a £2 million deal.
Meanwhile, defender Mark Delaney has recovered from a knee injury but is still struggling to be fit for the start of the season. The 29-year-old Wales international returned to training yesterday but is unlikely to play until next week's reserve match at Middlesbrough.