Alan Pardew admits he fears losing Everton and Arsenal target Jonny Evans as transfer speculation regarding West Bromwich Albion's influential captain begins to quickly gather pace once again ahead of the January window.
Sam Allardyce and David Moyes currently preside over two of the three leakiest defences in the Premier League and will be looking to shore up their respective backlines when the market re-opens for business next month.
"I'm never confident when you've got great players because other clubs want great players, so your best players are always vulnerable," Pardew told the media before he takes charge of West Brom for the second time in Saturday's (9 December) clash with rock-bottom Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium.
"Jonny Evans is definitely one of them and he is our captain. Do I want to lose him? Of course not. Do I fear losing him? Of course I do."
West Brom dealt with interest in Evans throughout the summer and rebuffed bids from Arsenal and Leicester City worth £25m ($33.5m) before the deadline.
Manchester City also failed with a lower £18m offer for an experienced player who would have boosted their homegrown quota as stubborn West Brom demanded a fee in excess of £30m.
"There was interest in him in the summer so it makes sense to stir it up," added Pardew, whose reign as Tony Pulis' successor began with a drab goalless draw against former employers Crystal Palace last weekend.
"They are good headlines for the media. I understand that, we deal with it and Jonny has dealt with it in his own way. He was terrific for me. I can only go on his performance and he was outstanding for me against Crystal Palace and [now] we go to Swansea."
Everton and West Ham's interest seems to have created a four-way battle for Evans' signature, with The Telegraph claiming last week that Arsenal and dominant leaders City are both set to reignite their respective pursuits in January.
Pep Guardiola was known to be looking for further defensive reinforcements with Eliaquim Mangala unlikely to remain at the Etihad Stadium for the long-term and captain Vincent Kompany once again plagued by injury issues.
The need for another central defender was further exacerbated last month when John Stones was ruled out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury suffered during the 2-0 win at Leicester.
Arsenal, meanwhile, sold Gabriel Paulista to Valencia in August and will lose Per Mertesacker at the end of the season when the skipper retires to take over as academy manager. The injured Shkodran Mustafi's future has also been subject to question marks and Laurent Koscielny, now 32, will have to manage a chronic achilles condition for the remainder of his career.
Natural left-back Nacho Monreal, Rob Holding and Calum Chambers are Arsene Wenger's other options in that position.