Everton manager Ronald Koeman has revealed that Leicester City and Newcastle United target James McCarthy and Aaron Lennon sat out his side's final pre-season friendly against Sevilla on Sunday (6 August) because of fitness concerns.
Both McCarthy, 26 and Lennon, 30, have been linked with moves away from Goodison Park this summer and their omission from the side to face Sevilla sparked suggestions that the pair may have played their last games for the Toffees.
But Koeman, who has been rather vocal about Everton's unfinished transfer business this summer, played down speculation surrounding the midfield pair by confirming that they were not physically ready to face the Andalusians, who came away from Goodison with a 2-2 draw.
Leicester and Newcastle are both believed to be interested in McCarthy, who is valued at £25m by Everton, while Lennon has recently been attracting interest from Marco Silva's Watford. Koeman did not go into fine detail about potential moves for the pair and is unaware of reports linking Lennon with a move to Vicarage Road.
"Both [Lennon and McCarthy] were not fit," The Everton boss told the Liverpool Echo. "I don't know about Lennon moving - I haven't heard anything. He's not fit. When he was fit he was in the squad.
"James still has some issues on his knee so out of protection I left him out."
McCarthy has suffered a number of injury problems over the last couple of seasons and was only able to start just seven Premier League matches last season because of his fitness troubles.
With the likes of Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin ahead of him in the Goodison pecking order, McCarthy may see fit to attempt to revive his ailing career with a move to either Newcastle or Leicester, whose interest may have cooled due to the arrival of Vicente Iborra at the King Power Stadium.
Everton's £25m asking price seems to have put off the likes of Newcastle, who are struggling to free up funds at present, but Koeman's men may have to lower their asking price for the Republic of Ireland international if they are intent on moving him on.
Everton managed to cope without McCarthy and Lennon during their feisty encounter with Sevilla, who deserved to win the match and maybe would have done so but for the goalkeeping heroics of Jordan Pickford, who delivered a wildly impressive performance between the Goodison sticks.
Eyebrows were raised when the Toffees struck a deal worth £30m to sign Pickford from Sunderland earlier this summer, but Koeman and the rest of the Everton set-up have complete faith in the talented young stopper, who should claim the England No 1 jersey with ease if he continues his rapid development.
"Okay we paid a lot for him [Pickford] because we believe in the boy," Koeman agreed. "He's still 23 but he's really comfortable, a great kicker of the ball and I'm really happy he has played 90 minutes twice. He did really well and is a great signing for the club."