Everton have moved into pole position to sign Saints target Theo Walcott.

Toffees manager Sam Allardyce revealed his club have opened talks with the Gunners over a potential £20m deal for the 28-year-old, who has only 18 months remaining on his contract.

Everton are reportedly prepared to match Walcott's Arsenal wages, rumoured to be around £120,000-a-week, as well as Arsenal's valuation.

Saints have been keen on a reunion with one of the club's most successful academy graduates, but now face having to pay a hefty fee as well as obliterating the club's wage structure, which all makes a deal much less likely, even given the ability to offer Walcott the chance to keep his young family local rather than uproot them.

The England international has made just 15 appearances this season but has not made a Premier League start since April.

Allardyce sees a move to Goodison as a chance for Walcott to reignite his faltering career.

"I think you are all aware of our interest in Theo. If that is possible to get over the line I'd be delighted," said Allardyce, who has already strengthened his forward line with the purchase of £28m Beskitas striker Cenk Tosun.

"Obviously there are negotiations that are happening at the moment and if that can all be sorted out - one of the most difficult things to do today - then that would be a great addition in my opinion to come and join us from an attacking point of view.

"Two or three reasons really: goalscoring threat, pace, experience and he's good on assists from wide areas in terms of his crossing ability.

"Theo's not as risky (as Tosun) because he's proven. He's scored 100 goals for Arsenal from wide positions as well as many assists.

"His pace is one of his key strengths, which we lack in this squad. His assists are pretty good as well as his goals.

"We are short of goals so to add power in our goalscoring ability would be very important for me if we can negotiate that transfer - and he's only 28.

"I wouldn't have thought a player today would have any qualms about where he moves now if he is moving for his career.

"I wouldn't think he had that mentality that it was not the right place to go to get first-team football. It's 'Have boots, will travel' now isn't it?

"I don't think there's any chance of a loan so I think it is a permanent deal we're hoping to negotiate. It is not imminent at the moment but some negotiations are going on."

Walcott is now Everton's primary target but that is likely to mean a number of fringe players are moved on.