As part of SB Nation’s ‘Underdogs Week’ last week, we took a look back at five Everton players in the last decade who arguably never received the adulation their performances at Goodison Park often deserved.
Turning the tables this week, here’s five men in royal blue to have perhaps garnered a little too much in the way of appreciation or popularity during their spells on Merseyside:
Ramiro Funes Mori
Legend has it that, with the clock ticking down on the 2015 summer transfer window, Roberto Martinez had a pivotal decision to make.
Either take the riskier but cheaper option of Ramiro Funes Mori, a River Plate centre-back available for £9.5 million, or go after the much-coveted Virgil van Dijk, then of Celtic, for a few million more.
If that is the case, few decisions in the business world of football have aged as terribly by the call the then-Everton boss made. van Dijk moved to Ronald Koeman’s Southampton for £13 million instead, while Funes Mori, after three uninspiring years in England, is now with Villarreal of La Liga.
It’s not just in comparison to van Dijk, one of the world’s best current centre-halves, that Funes Mori disappointed, though. He quickly became a fan favourite for his enthusiastic, if at times erratic style, and was good for the odd goal - he netted five in his first campaign with Everton - but that somewhat masked some fairly glaring shortcomings.
Too often showing an inability to sense danger, Funes Mori was guilty of his fair share of harebrained decisions; not least a clumsy penalty conceded in a home defeat to Leicester in 2015, and that horror challenge on Liverpool’s Divock Origi before proceeding to kiss the Everton badge having been deservedly sent off.
Perhaps if he was likeable, or certainly less injury-prone, Funes Mori would have lasted less time at Goodison than three years. As it is, he became rather emblematic of Martinez’s downfall at the club.
Another short-sighted Martinez signing, Bešić’s Everton career has followed a similar trajectory to that of Funes Mori; a good, strong impression made early on, fan favourite status established, followed by an alarming, irreversible deterioration.
Still at the club six years since joining despite no first team appearances since December 2017, Bešić’s time with the Blues has been seriously hampered by his own injury woes and the comparatively much better form of his central midfield peers.
Again, it’s not that there’s a bad player, here. And while it might be easy for some to label Bešić as a one-trick pony for his no-nonsense, tough-tackling attitude, he simply hasn’t been as consistent as Idrissa Gueye was, nor André Gomes, Gareth Barry, or even Tom Davies and Morgan Schneiderlin at times.
Not lacking heart or application, but rather temperament or technical ability, it seems a safe assumption to make that Bešić has made his last Everton appearance.
Certainly not overrated now given he has borne the brunt of Evertonian ire this term, it’s also fair to say much of Sigurðsson’s entire Goodison career hasn’t gone according to plan.
The Icelander endured a disappointing first season following a £45 million move for Swansea in August 2017, though there were at least mitigating factors; he had no pre-season, both Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce shoe-horned him out wide, and he struggled with injuries throughout the campaign.
Since then, despite 14 goals last season under Marco Silva, Sigurðsson still felt a frustrating presence. A strong start and end to the campaign was book-ended by a dreadful mid-term, during which he was often anonymous as Everton won just five of 15 league games from December to February and exited the FA Cup to lower-league Millwall.
This season has been an obvious disaster, but even last year, when he seemed to restore some credit after a tough first year, some praise felt unwarranted. For Sigurðsson has simply never been the signing many Evertonians hoped or expected him to be, owing mainly to a total absence of pace and a failure to rubber-stamp any place in the starting XI as his own for long enough.
Credit to Gerard Deulofeu, who seems to have turned the corner in the last two years at Watford, playing more frequently as a centre-forward than out wide and managing a goal return to reflect the improvement in his game.
At Everton, though, it often felt strange just how much fans warmed to him during both his initial year on loan in 2013-14 and his second spell after joining permanently from 2015 to 2017.
Admittedly he was only young, but Deulofeu was never really a prolific scorer or creator under either Martinez or Koeman, with some sections of supporters questioning his work rate and fitness; he would tire remarkably quickly at times.
Perhaps he, like many others, can be guilty of over-indulgence on Martinez’s part, yet at the same time there were several occasions where the manager would use Deulofeu sparingly. Another player who seems to have been loved more for his personality rather than his impact on the pitch.
Though Mirallas, like Sigurðsson, eventually ran out of credit from much of the Everton fan base, it still seems fair to label him overrated, given how popular he at times was with the Goodison faithful.
An undoubtedly talented player who not only scored a fair share of goals, but netted spectacular ones, too, Mirallas’ downfall was always his desire, and an occasional willingness to put himself above the team.
Think robbing Leighton Baines of a penalty, only to miss it in a 0-0 draw with West Brom, or getting sent off twice in the same season, or the fact that almost all of the four Everton manager post-David Moyes (who signed him in 2012) seemed to be at loggerheads with the Belgian at some point in his Everton career.
And while 38 goals in 186 Everton games is certainly a decent return for a winger, not least when consider some of the dross he played alongside in that time, Mirallas’ seven years at Goodison feel a missed opportunity for a player who could have improved further had he not seemingly believed his own hype so soon.