Four months after threatening to break away from the Premier League entirely in order to earn even more money, Manchester City and Chelsea are set to spend more than £300m on three players this week. Meanwhile Everton, despite possessing an owner with considerable resources, have spent a combined £1.5m on three players so far and need to sell in order to raise funds to buy a new right back, a position that has need strengthening for three years.
Welcome to life inside the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules.
The regulations, like UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, are supposedly designed to avoid clubs getting into financial strife by spending beyond their means. In reality, it has simply allowed the elite clubs to pull the ladder up from beneath them and maintain the status quo.
Rarely has that reality hit home harder for Evertonians than in the past few weeks. But while it is enormously frustrating for the fans, the club’s problems this summer are all of their own making from previous windows.
The Toffees are paying the price for years of terrible decision-making in the transfer market. Everton have spent more than £500m in the five years since Farhad Moshiri’s takeover, taking the club from 11th in 2015-16 to 10th in 2020-21.
The most damaging period was that already infamous 2017-18 campaign, when £182m (helped by the sale of Romelu Lukaku) was splurged on 11 players including Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen, Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott.
Of those new arrivals only Pickford and Keane can be considered a success, Vlasic and Henry Onyekuru were sold on at a small profit, while the generous wages lavishly thrown at the rest means it has been hugely difficult to move them on.
The success rate has improved slightly since the arrival of Marcel Brands, though it has been far from perfect. The likes of Fabian Delph and Alex Iwobi have failed to improve the squad and their huge wages continue to anchor the club down.
The constant turnover of managers has also increased the level of wastage, as one boss understandably favours a certain type of player over another.
The latest victim of that manager churn is James Rodriguez, who after being signed to great fanfare last summer is now being pushed out of the door in a desperate attempt to lower the wage bill.
This moment of financial reckoning has been hurtling down the road for some time and all we can do is hope it doesn’t cost the Toffees dear.
What it does prove is that money is no guarantee of success. So while many fans are looking on at a team like Aston Villa with envy as they spend the proceeds of the Jack Grealish deal, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to steam off into the sunset.
We also have to remember that there is still a month of the transfer window to go and we can only truly judge the squad once it has shut. We are not privy to the discussions behind the scenes.
But as frustrating as it is, maybe this is also a valuable lesson for Everton? For a few years they appeared to lose all sense of financial expediency. There looked to be no plan or structure as the wages piled high and performances on the field continued to underwhelm.
A spell on the financial naughty step might do them good, forcing a reset of sorts and a refocus on buying players to fit a system and plan.
The fear of course is that their rivals take advantage and push on into top six contention, leaving the Blues in the wake and accelerating that downward spiral.
But if that proves the case there is no point directing your anger at the Premier League or Manchester City. The blame lies a lot closer to home.