The Hard Tackle analyses Everton’s transfer business and gives its verdict on the Premier League club’s performance in the summer window.
Everton supporters experienced a rather indifferent window to recent summers. There were plenty of shocks, surprise signings and anxiousness over what’s in store for the current season. There were certainly many expectations from the club’s board to strengthen the side, and things did transpire, probably not how the supporters would have envisaged.
After spending fair amounts on strengthening the squad last summer, Carlo Ancelotti brought about a certain degree of balance in the side. As soon as Real Madrid came calling over their vacant managerial position, the Italian left in a hurry, leaving Everton in limbo, throwing all their plans drawn up under the Italian down the drain.
Former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez became only the second individual in history to manage both Merseyside clubs. His appointment caused a furore among supporters, although certain quarters retained optimism owing to the Spaniard’s track record in football management.
Benitez had previously managed Newcastle United, where he would often complain about a lack of transfer activity or funds. However, with absolute certainty, he would not have to face those issues at Goodison Park, with enough support from the board available at his disposal. Still, Everton had the most underwhelming transfer window in years.
The number of players coming in was not the subject of scrutiny, but the lack of clear cut, quality signings was. But, so far, the new boys have clicked, and suddenly, after three games, Benitez’ ideas don’t seem as terrible as they had been perceived. However, if his transfer plans are workable is a question only the season ahead can answer.
Here The Hard Tackle analyses what Everton did right and where they got their calls wrong in this summer’s transfer window.
INs – Demarai Gray, Andros Townsend (Free), Asmir Begovic (Free), Andy Lonergan (Free), Salomon Rondon (Free)
OUTs – Moise Kean (Loan), Bernard, Theo Walcott (Free), Joshua King (Free), Yanick Bolasie (Free), Niels NKounkou (Loan), Joao Virginia (Free), Muhamed Besic (Released)
MVA (Most Valuable Addition): Demarai Gray
Demarai Gray’s transfer to Everton raised plenty of eyebrows. The winger did not get excitement levels soaring, but the former Leicester City man was chosen by Benitez himself to play for the club. For all it’s worth, Gray was Everton’s most expensive buy in this window costing £1.8 million, as the rest were free transfers. The Gray deal was questioned, owing to his underwhelming spell at Leicester for many seasons.
However, it feels like the ex-Birmingham City starlet is enjoying a new lease of life and performing admirably for the Merseysiders. Two goals in his first three Premier League games has helped him come into the spotlight once more. With his form picking momentum with each passing game, the winger could end up having a good season at Everton.
Everton and Benitez have identified a player with bags of talent but was either underused or not trusted before. The Spanish manager has instantly placed trust in the player and is already reaping the rewards on the pitch.
Gray has featured in over 250 career games, including 136 in the Premier League, with the vast majority playing for Leicester City. However, his poor goalscoring record and the form of many other attacking stars at the club meant the Foxes had no qualms about letting him leave for Bayer Leverkusen.
However, his short period in Germany has been revitalising, and Everton might just have made one of their smartest signings in recent years for pocket change. Judging by his early form and integration into this Everton side, we expect Gray to grow in prominence and play a key part this season.
Shrewd Work (A Departure That Is Ideal For All Parties): Moise Kean
When Mario Balotelli broke into the Inter Milan first team, many top European and English clubs queued up to sign him. Such was the Italian’s impact as a teenager, and in the same mould, Moise Kean emerged at Juventus.
His clinical form in front of goal at a tender age prompted Juventus to afford him the decent first-team opportunity, which was successful for most parts. However, when the time came for the Bianconeri to choose between keeping a budding prodigy or sign a readymade superstar, they chose the latter.
That decision led to Everton signing Kean from Juventus for a fee worth £27 million. However, things haven’t gone to plan for the Italian forward. In his 39 games across all competition for the Toffees, Kean managed only four strikes, leading to speculation of a move elsewhere.
As soon as Carlo Ancelotti arrived, Kean was ready to leave and promptly joined Paris Saint-Germain on a season-long loan. The young striker rediscovered his form, as he scored 17 goals across 41 appearances in all competitions for the French giants last season.
PSG were somewhat keen to sign him permanently before, but the high profile arrivals of Lionel Messi and other star names put Kean’s future on the backburner. They tried to secure him on another loan deal, but Everton remained adamant on a permanent transfer.
A late transfer frenzy involving Cristiano Ronaldo opened the doors for Kean once more. As the Portuguese joined Manchester United, Juventus were keen on signing a replacement, who was young. Other more prominent names were swept aside in favour of facilitating a return for Kean.
With financial implications of the pandemic still affecting Serie A clubs, Juventus could only request a two-year loan deal with an obligation to buy. In all, Everton managed to make a slight profit over their initial outlay on a player who they thoroughly deemed unwanted.
It’s a clever piece of business from the Merseysiders to agree on a deal that could be worth €38 million (including loan fee and bonuses) when the obligation kicks in. The only downside of the departure was Everton’s failure to sign a replacement before the window closed.
The Big Miss (A Player Who Should Have Left): James Rodriguez
Ancelotti brought optimism to the club; he also attracted big names towards the club. Such was the Italian manager’s reputation that in no time the Toffees signed players such as Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez.
The former Real Madrid and Colombian attacker was a surprise signing given the various links to other big clubs. Moreover, the Toffees are not exactly the name that attracts big names generally, with exceptions. The fact that Everton got him on a free transfer made the deal all the more interesting.
Rodriguez began his Everton career in scintillating style, helping the club climb on top of the table. However, as the season progressed, injuries took a toll on the Colombian, who eventually managed to feature in only 26 games across all competitions. Rodriguez scored six goals in the league while providing five assists.
As the summer transpired at Merseyside, things didn’t go to plan for the midfielder. Since Ancelotti departed in a hurry, Rodriguez’s future has been called into question, especially after the Colombian revealed the Italian was why he joined Everton.
The midfielder has seemingly missed the opening three games for no apparent reason. Rodriguez was seen on his Twitch channel claiming he was unaware of Everton’s opponents before facing Leeds United. Those off-field actions, coupled with his apparent unhappiness at still being at the club, meant he was a sure sell.
Everton were unsuccessful in shifting out the player on high wages and a year left on his deal. It remains to be seen if Benitez and Rodriguez come to a consensus to let him continue playing in the team. The Toffees might have to deal with the Colombian for another half-a-season at least with a touted move to Turkey falling through, and he’s a player the club should have rid of this summer.
Verdict – Failure
Gray certainly looks like a decent signing, with ample room for further development. However, Asmir Begovic, Andy Lonergan, Salomon Rondon and Andros Townsend, all on free transfers, add very little value to the current squad.
Only Rondon and Townsend could expect to feature in the first team. The former Crystal Palace winger’s experience is a boost, but he’s not the type of player to improve the Toffees in the short or long term. The others are backup to existing first-teamers.
In all, Benitez might have a strong squad at his disposal, one he can work with, but the transfer window presented an opportunity to make Everton even stronger. The Toffees missed the trick due to their limited spending. The window was so contrasting that Kean’s loan fees alone make the club a decent net profit.
Benitez will have to hang on with the current options at least until January when he can rethink and add the right players. In conclusion, it was not the best window for Everton, as they failed to bring any reasonable quality to improve the squad for the season.