Everton are far from perfect both on and –particularly – off the pitch, but when it comes to loan signings they get it pretty much spot on.
(just ignore Christian Atsu for now)
Back in 2013 after initially attempting to sign half of Wigan, Roberto Martinez got us all excited by bringing in a talented kid with fancy unpronounceable name on a season-long loan from Barcelona.
By late August a teenage Deulofeu had already wowed the Goodison crowd with a goal against, er, Stevenage, before Martinez pulled off a deadline day masterstroke with the loan signings of Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku.
They appeared to be the final cogs in a well-oiled Everton machine that enjoyed it’s best season in years, finishing fifth and accruing a record points tally in the Premier League.
Not only that but it was done playing some sparkling football not seen on the Goodison turf since the 1980s. The School of Science was on its way back.
Or was it?
Everton’s success appeared to irk the establishment and when Arsene Wenger had a pop about Everton’s loan signings after Arsenal were beaten 3-0 at Goodison in April, the issue suddenly became a hot topic in the media.
The furore largely painted Everton in a bad light, the club accused of abusing a flawed loan system and as a result discrediting any results they had on the pitch.
The peak of the criticism came from a now infamous article by Martin Samuel, whose column led with the headline "£50million loan sham".
For those who need reminding, Samuel claimed that because Everton couldn’t afford to sign Deulofeu, Barry and Lukaku permanently they were unfairly achieving success over clubs who were restricted from signing big-money players because of FFP.
Samuel was rightly criticised by a number of Everton supporters for unfairly discrediting Everton’s achievements. His argument that Everton were taking advantage of a flawed Financial Fair Play system was looking at the problem from the wrong angle.
Teams have been signing players on loan for decades, often they are players they may not otherwise have been able to have on a permanent deal. Because Deulofeu, Barry and Lukaku were so successful does that suddenly make the loan system flawed?
Surely the target of FFP ire should be the sides that stockpile players, often letting them stagnate in the reserves? If that practice was curbed the talent would be much more evenly spread across the divisions, maybe saving the need to Everton to sign players like Lukaku or Deulofeu on loan.
Samuel responded by insisting he wasn’t having a go at Everton, stating his admiration for the team, re-iterating that they had done nothing wrong and his hope that they could breach the top four elite.
All very nice, but when his article carried such in inflammatory headline and the piece accused Everton of "running a shop with its rivals’ stock", his kind words don't carry much weight.
Fortunately the permanent capture of Deulofeu, to go with Barry and Lukaku last year (for considerably less than the £50m valuation quoted by Samuel), renders the argument meaningless.
Everton have played the loan market perfectly and as a result made three permanent signings that will take little time to bed in and are familiar with their teammates, thus minimising the financial risk.
Everton should be applauded if anything for adopting such a prudent transfer strategy, even if, admittedly, it is one forced on them by financial limitations (the reasons for which lay at the feet of the board – but that’s for another blog!).
Don’t hold your breath for praise though; just look forward to the thrills, spills and frustrations of Deulofeu in an Everton shirt next season.
As well as the satisfaction that the myth of the "£50m loan sham" has been well and truly extinguished.