Who could replace Ross Barkley, you ask? Actually...there are more than a few players.
It is absolutely no secret that Everton have been looking for creative help, and it has been equally plain that Ross Barkley has decided that he’s too good for a club he wouldn’t consistently start for if he stayed.
Articles about a Gylfi Sigurdsson transfer have given new depth to the term ad nauseam, and you can find an analytic breakdown from yours truly comparing the merits of him or Jonathan Viera here.
In this article, I would like to discuss five other options for the club, ranging from a value buy from the continental bargain bin to dream scenarios and wild cards. These are just a few of the options available, because frankly Ross Barkley isn’t that hard to replace.
For instance, we avoided using any English Premier League players on our list given that we could do a separate article just with fits from there. Buying from within the EPL tends to be more expensive, and we want to think outside the box for the sake of discussion. So here we go.
Emre Colak | Deportivo La Coruna
Lacking any semblance of sex appeal but nevertheless a viable option would be someone like Emre Colak from Deportivo La Coruna.
In 2477 minutes last season, Colak produced 2.6 key passes per 90. Out of those, 1.1 were from dead ball situations, which is extremely proficient, 1.5 were from crosses, so this would definitely be a creative option out wide.
While certainly a diversion from the tactical setup Ronald Koeman used last season, it would add a new element to the offense in open play while also improving the Blues’ poor set piece performance.
Colak completed 50% of his dribbles, which isn’t going to set the world on fire, but keep in mind we are talking about a player valued on Transfermarkt at €7.5 million. Truly a bargain, at 26 years old, he would have many years to contribute to the squad.
Max Meyer | Schalke 04
Meyer is an interesting one, because if you simply go off his Bundesliga stats, he’s not an overly convincing creative force. 1.6 key passes per 90 doesn’t blow you away.
However, you soon realize that hardly any of those key passes were from set piece situations, which gives you much more reason to be optimistic. In the Europa League, Meyer actually had great success from dead balls and got his per 90 number up to 2.3.
Koeman would probably not ask him to take many free kicks at Everton so what remains is a very balanced and respectable creative force. I know, I know, he’s only got one assist from last year, but when you’re measuring creative ability, that’s not the important number.
For example, Mesut Ozil had 19 league assists in 2015-2016 off of 4.3 key passes a game, which are unbelievable numbers. This past season he dropped to 9 assists, so on the surface it looks like he went from amazing to mediocre, right?
However, Ozil still averaged 3.2 key passes per 90 and almost his entire decline was connected to fewer key passes from crosses. It is no accident whatsoever that this coincided with headed-ball specialist Olivier Giroud playing about 1200 fewer league minutes this past season than the year before. Arsenal changed what they were trying to do to create goals, and it affected Ozil’s key passes and by consequence his assists.
Back to Meyer, one assist does seem horrible, however, he’s consistently creating chances in open play, and that is the kind of thing that will improve with a better team around him (and Everton is significantly more talented than Schalke). That ability can shine with the Toffees.
The 21 year old is appraised at €14m by Transfermarkt, but he’d probably cost somewhere in the 20s in the real market given his age. On this one, you gotta look at the little things to see the potential amidst the dumpster fire of a season Schalke had last year.
Felipe Anderson | Lazio
Honestly, I liked Jonathan Viera here, but we said we were trying to think outside the box, and as mentioned, we have written on Viera already (here it is again if you want to look).
In the process of researching this article I did a deep dive into Anderson’s statistics and was blown away. Anderson is only 24 years old, valued at €25m by Transfermarkt (he would probably cost more like €35m), and has played over 2000 league minutes in three straight seasons, including 2919 last year.
In the last three years, Anderson has 21 goals and 20 assists. He averaged 2.3 key passes per game in 2016/17, virtually all from open play. He succeeds in 55% of his dribbles, which is very strong considering he attempts 6.5 per 90. He is an incredibly well rounded winger and someone who can be part of this Everton project long term.
It has been suggested that if there existed people who could replace or improve upon what Gylfi brought to the table that we should notify the Everton board so that they could sign him. Well, here’s hoping someone on that board...or maybe one of their secretaries...or maybe a janitor at Goodison Park reads Royal Blue Mersey because here he is.
An excellent young player, Felipe Anderson could use the publicity of playing in the Premier League as he tries to make a World Cup roster for Brazil.
Julian Brandt | Bayer Leverkusen
Julian Brandt is 21 years old, and looks set for a long future on the German national team. He’s rated at €20m by Transfermarkt, but would probably cost more than double that. He averaged 2 key passes per 90 last campaign, and while he needs to make better decisions about when to dribble he did complete 2.8 of them a game last year. Brandt is still growing into his game but he has all the tools to be a major star - personally, I think he could be Arjen Robben in his prime levels of good.
Brandt’s a great player, and if his ambitions were for a team of larger historical status than Everton, I would not hold it against him. My goodness, though, a find like that would be among the greatest grabs in Everton history.
This signing would be Everton’s equivalent to the day Manchester City signed Robinho, only far more intelligent; or the day Chelsea differentiated themselves from Fulham and signed Claude Makelele - Julian Brandt would be the signing that announced that the Toffees are indisputably back as one of the absolutely elite clubs in the Premier League.
Hatem Ben Arfa | Paris Saint Germain
Ben Arfa is a lunatic. Some guys just aren’t quite balanced upstairs, and he’s one of them. Honestly, I’m kind of concerned as to how his personality would mesh with a no nonsense professional like Koeman.
That said, the talent there is real. Ben Arfa averaged 2.6 key passes per 90, 1.9 of them from open play, and he averages 6.2 successful dribbles per 90 minutes. That’s not a typo - 6.2. He got that 6.2 with a 70% success rate, too.
When it comes to skinning people alive on the move very few people on planet earth do it as well as Ben Arfa. He’s crazy, he’s older (30), but the Frenchman would probably be extremely cheap given the attacking talent PSG is trying to buy.
Ben Arfa is rated at €10m by Transfermarkt, and even that is probably a little high. He might be worth a flier, with the assumption that Yannick Bolasie can step in around Christmas and fill the gap if Ben Arfa has a meltdown and implodes.
There are a lot of options to think about here, but I think the main takeaway is that Everton is not stuck with just one or two choices if Ross Barkley leaves or the Gylfi saga doesn’t produce a player. There are a many creators out there, and Everton have the money and prestige to get a few of them.
Ross, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.