With the recent close of the January transfer window, I can't help but look back and admonish at what a poor showing it was for Everton. Granted, manager David Moyes did say that funds would be limited and at best they would be looking at a few loan signings. However, those expectations quickly changed on January 28th when Everton made a surprise bid for FC Twente midfielder Leroy Fer for an agreed transfer fee of €10 million. Fer, a Dutch international, was flown into Merseyside to undergo a medical and discuss personal terms ahead of making the deal final.
Leroy Fer with agent Rob Jansen and girlfriend Xenia
The deal took an unexpectedly sour turn when questions arose over the results of the medical. Fer sustained a knee injury while playing in an international friendly for Holland last September, but had fully recovered and was back to playing regularly with Twente in the Eredivisie. None-the-less, the status of his knee was enough of a concern for Everton to request a renegotiation of the terms. However, FC Twente were unrelenting in their position that Everton not renege on their agreed deal so the transfer was called off.
"Today they started up the negotiations once again. During the day they came with all sorts of additional conditions about the payment terms and also the transfer fee. We won't deal with that. Then there won't be a transfer. We don't play that game at Twente. They can come up with any demand they wish but we're not playing along with their demands." -FC Twente chairman Joop Munsterman on Everton's attempt to reopen transfer negotiations
It is understandable that complications often arise during a transfer and, in many ways, the Everton board should be commended for safeguarding the club's small transfer budget from a player with high risk of reinjury. However, it is difficult to overlook the fact that Everton waited until so late in January to make a move in the market and, when the Fer deal fell through, it proved difficult to find a suitable replacement in the limited time remaining.
One glaring alternative prospect Everton missed out on was 22-year-old German international, Lewis Holtby. When Holtby declined to renew his contract with bundesliga side Schalke it sparked a number of rumors linking the midfielder with a host of Premiership clubs including Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, and Everton. Perhaps no team had more reason for optimism in securing his signature than Everton.
Lewis Holtby pictured in his bedroom at his parents' house
Lewis Holtby was born in Erkelenz, Germany to a British father and German mother. His father, a British soldier stationed in Germany, is an avid Everton fan and instilled in Lewis a love for the Blues from a very young age.
"My father was born in England and has been an Everton fan since the age of five. He immediately infected me with the Everton virus! Since then I have been an Everton fan and have always followed their games." -Lewis Holtby
Despite the obvious interest Holtby showed in Everton, the race for his signature was won by Tottenham Hotspur when they annouced his signing for the meager transfer fee of €1.75 million. It marked a real coup for Spurs, who are already gifted with a deep and talented midfield. Arguably more so than Everton; a team they happen to be challenging for the fourth and final Champions League qualification position.
With the transfer window quickly closing, Everton did manage one signing: 18-year-old defender John Stones from Championship side Barnsley for €3.5 million. Stones, along with Leeds' Sam Byram, was closely watched in recent months by Toffee boss David Moyes and was thought to be an ideal long-term replacement for Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville at right-back. A swoop for either Byram or Stones was planned for the summer, but the hard pursuit of Stones by Wigan Athletic in the January window forced Everton into action sooner than they planned.
Barnsley's John Stones was Everton's lone January signing
Although Stones is a highly-rated talent who has already represented England as a youth international, his arrival will do little to help an Everton side in need of reinforcements that can make an impact now. As Moyes said, "Stones is one for the future". Everton are well within striking distance of a fourth place Premier League finish, but their failure to bolster their squad this past month while their close competitors did so in droves will make the challenge that much more difficult.