Everton may be forced to switch their managerial search away from Marco Silva after failing to break the deadlock over their move for the Watford boss.
Silva, 40, emerged as the prime target for Everton majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri but the Toffees had an approach for the Portuguese firmly rejected by their Premier League rivals.
Everton were understood to be willing to pay about £10m in compensation for Silva, who signed a two-year contract at Vicarage Road in the summer after leaving relegated Hull City.
Silva declined to pledge his long-term future to Watford both before and after the home win against West Ham United – but the Hornets still made it clear they would not countenance any further interest.
It seems Everton are now ready to admit defeat in their immediate pursuit of Silva, and it remains to be seen if there are any new developments or if they are prepared to wait until the summer.
Though Silva was coy about Everton’s approach, he has shown no inclination to resign – meaning it looks certain he will stay at Vicarage Road this season.
Everton have been seeking a new manager for more than a month after sacking Ronald Koeman following the 5-2 home defeat by Arsenal.
After a summer transfer outlay of £140m, that result left them in the relegation zone, and under-23 coach David Unsworth is in caretaker charge.
Unsworth, who has won one out of five games, will be in charge for Thursday’s Europa League dead rubber against Atalanta at Goodison Park and extending his spell could be an option as Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright struggle to make any headway.
Former England manager Sam Allardyce was considered as a short-term option but he withdrew after failing to get an offer, while there has been no move for Burnley’s Sean Dyche, the early favourite.
The bookmakers’ odds on former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal tumbled until he distanced himself from the job – as happened with RB Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick on Wednesday after it emerged Everton were struggling to end the stalemate over Silva.
Rangnick was interviewed before Roberto Martinez was appointed manager in the summer of 2013.