O’Neill: Evans one of the best in the EPL

Northern Ireland head coach Michael O'Neill has hailed West Bromwich Albion defender Jonny Evans as one of the finest defenders in the Premier League.

Evans, who has been subject to a £15m bid from Leicester City, has been in fine form for West Brom and his country since leaving Manchester United for £6m two years ago.

"When I look around the Premier League and see British centre-backs, I don't see anyone better," he told the Belfast Telegraph. "I look at Gary Cahill at Chelsea and Chris Smalling at Manchester United – Jonny Evans is every bit as good as them."

And O'Neill revealed the former United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson was astounded by the club's decision to allow the 29-year-old leave Old Trafford – after developing the central defender as successor for Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

"In September after last year's Euros, there was a conference in France for the coaches and Sir Alex was there talking about it and he openly said to me that he could not believe Van Gaal had sold Jonny from United because having seen him come through, he felt Jonny would spend his whole career at United or certainly to the latter stages of his career.

"I think there were a lot of factors why he ended up at West Brom. In the previous two years he had an injury and at Manchester United they had [Rio] Ferdinand and [Nemanja] Vidic and then Jonny and there was a succession plan that didn't happen because of the change in manager."

Evans played 31 league games under manager Tony Pulis as the Baggies secured a tenth placed finish in the English top-flight.