Everton manager Sam Allardyce has played down talk of a reunion with Lamine Kone at Goodison Park and told Ross Barkley "the door is open" if he wishes to sign a new contract at the club.
Kone, brought to the Stadium of Light by Allardyce from FC Lorient in 2016, was instrumental in Sunderland staying in the Premier League that season but expressed his desire to leave the club shortly after Big Sam's departure from Wearside.
The centre-half's form deteriorated woefully during their last campaign in the top flight and his fortunes have not improved in the Championship this term, failing to make a single match day squad since October.
Reports have suggested Sunderland will offer Kone to Everton for £10m with the club desperate to raise some cash to fund their own January plans. But Allardyce has effectively ruled out a move for a player whose poor form over the last 18 months has done little to convince him he can improve his squad of players.
"Not at the moment," Allardyce told a press conference when asked if the club were planning a move for the Ivory Coast international, speaking before the visit of Chelsea on Saturday (23 December). "He was one of the outstanding defenders that produced a remarkable run of performances at Sunderland to help us stay in the Premier League. Since then I'm not sure what's happened, that puts a doubt over his ability to sustain that level of performance and I'm not sure I'd be interested."
Barkley, yet to play this season after suffering a hamstring injury in the summer, is nearing his return to full fitness but with just over six months remaining on his contract, a move away from Merseyside in January could beckon with Chelsea reportedly still interested in striking a deal.
The England international turned down a new contract offer last summer and while Allardyce admits the decision over the player's future is now out of the club's hands, he has not given up hope of Barkley remaining where he is.
"If everything continues, it will be early January," Allardyce said when asked about the player's return to action. On his future, he added: "It's not in our hands at the minute, he knows the door is always open if he wants to talk about staying. But whether he chooses that or not, we'll see, who knows what happens in January."