Amid the hullabaloo over Cristiano Ronaldo once again using Manchester United to strengthen his influence at Real Madrid, Liverpool’s endless negotiations regarding Naby Keita and Alexis Sanchez edging closer to Manchester City inch by painless inch, Everton have quietly gone about their transfer business with impressive efficiency.
In signing goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, centre-back Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen plus forwards Henry Onyekuru and Sandro Ramirez, Ronald Koeman has instantly added a fresh core to his side with players all making the next step up in their careers and with strong potential resale value.
Jamie Carragher earned the ire of the Everton following when he joked on Twitter – with accompanying picture of a smiling and carefree Jurgen Klopp in Ibiza sporting an umbrella hat – that none of their new players would get in Liverpool’s first team.
He may have a case, although Pickford and Keane would almost certainly shore up one of the Premier League’s weakest defences, Klaassen is at least the equal of Georginio Wijnaldum in the Netherlands national team and who exactly was playing up front for Liverpool last season?
When Everton sign 4/5 players but none of them would make the Liverpool team! pic.twitter.com/IFJgqE0fne— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) July 3, 2017
Nevertheless, that’s not really the discussion as Liverpool, while adding Mohamed Salah and Dominic Solanke, are yet to address any of their problem positions of last season. Koeman, in contrast, has his new men at Finch Farm and starting pre-season training, giving them the maximum time to get up to speed with his methods, their new team-mates and surroundings.
Given Everton’s opening fixtures – Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United in four of their first five games – what Koeman and Director of Football Steve Walsh have achieved was imperative in limiting the potential damage of that nightmare opening.
Issues still remain. With the obvious observation being all this money will be recouped by Romelu Lukaku’s sale to Chelsea. Except while the Belgian wearing a slightly different shade of blue may seem like an inevitability, Koeman doesn’t quite share that view and the club simply do not want to sell.
There is potential for drama if Lukaku kicks up a fuss, while Ross Barkley’s future remains an eternal mystery with the playmaker refusing a new contract but with no suitors on the horizon but, for now, the landscape is positive.
Common wisdom dictates this blend of exciting young talent and new faces is missing one key ingredient: a veteran leader, someone who knows and loves the club, who can rally the dressing room.
Step forward: Wayne Rooney. The prodigal son returning to a glorious fanfare. “Once a Blue, Always a Blue” as the t-shirt read. Except, once such emotion is removed, it loses any discernible value.
The notion that Everton are somehow lacking influence and experience in a dressing room of Phil Jagielka (club captain, 328 top-flight appearances), Ashley Williams (Wales captain, 217 appearances), Gareth Barry (628 appearances) and Leighton Baines (384 appearances), is a curious one. Granted we’re not privy to the inner workings of a dressing room, but when exactly has Rooney proved himself to be an inspirational captain, for club or country?
So too the idea that he somehow guarantees goals – 308 minutes per Premier League goal last season, 301 in 2015/16 and 239 in 2014/15.
How he fits into Koeman’s vibrant, high pressing and transitional attack is confusing. If Koeman wants a lone striker, his lack of overall fitness discounts him from that role. He certainly can’t play wide of a three-man attack and the idea of him as a deep-lying midfielder has thankfully been consigned to English football’s horrid history books alongside David Beckham’s bad impression of Andrea Pirlo in Belfast in 2005.
The only viable spot for him is as a luxury No10, where Koeman builds a team around him. That doesn’t exactly fit into the Dutchman’s overall ethos as manager, nor was something he experienced during his playing days alongside several of the greatest individuals to ever slip on a pair a boots.
Any idea of Rooney returning smacks of an ego signing, designed to raise the profile of the club internationally; a marketing move, not a football decision.
He could be a useful squad member to help alleviate a heavy 60+ game season, but do you pay such a player £150,000+ a week? Even in a loan agreement, Everton will have to bear a significant financial responsibility. And such is Rooney’s stature he almost certainly will be required to start some games.
Given how Everton have gone about their business, it would be a reductive decision based on nothing more than sentimentality and nostalgia. Emotions that too often hold a football club back.
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