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Talking points from Everton’s disappointing summer transfer window

Musings in the wake of the transfer window closing and what comes next

Everton Training Session Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

For those of us that were under the impression that with the transfer window slamming shut on August 31 we could safely park our speculations for another… oh, 3 months or so, then think again!

In the days since, several stories and narratives have appeared regarding the club’s business, or lack thereof that bear consideration. Here are those that interested me the most.

Hail Rondon!

It appears that getting in the big Venezuelan striker was something of a priority for Rafa Benitez, which I found surprising. I must admit to being underwhelmed by the acquisition, but this was likely informed more by who we didn’t sign and the obvious pressing needs elsewhere in the squad than a problem with the player himself. Given time to decompress, I think the signing is actually pretty decent.

He appears to have the right work ethic that the manager obviously knows and trusts, and the veteran can likely prove a useful asset off the bench or as cover for Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Given our recent track-record with signing free agents on inflated contracts, I’m hoping that lessons have been learned and that he is paid appropriately to his role in the squad. So long as nobody uses the term “Premier League proven” within earshot, I’m at peace with this one.

Broken Promises?

With a week or so remaining in the window, Benitez stated in a pre-match press conference that he expected 2-3 more signings to be made and that he’d be surprised if the club did less or more business. Well, it ended up being just the one new addition, so it is reasonable to presume that the manager may be a little disappointed. It is surely inconceivable that he was not made aware of the financial position of Everton before he accepted the role, so he must have been convinced that the club would be able to fund incomings with the sale of player assets.

Even given the current difficult transfer market, he must be feeling let down by the club’s inability to make significant sales. Will there be a fall-out over this? Early signs, in the form of stories emanating from sources in and around the club, are not encouraging. Rafa has now been left with a number of senior players still ensconced at the club that were apparently being hawked around for offers at various stages over the summer, including James Rodriguez, Andre Gomes, Mason Holgate, Jonjoe Kenny, Fabian Delph and Tom Davies.

Everton Pre-Season Training Session
Jonjoe Kenny, Anthony Gordon, Fabian Delph and Andre Gomes at Finch Farm
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Tables and Lampshades

There seems to be a serious disconnect in transfer strategy between Marcel Brands, the Director of Football and Benitez. Now this is understandable, given the short time the manager has been in place, but three rumours have emerged regarding missed targets that are concerning.

  • First off, it appears Rafa was never onboard with targeting fullback Denzel Dumfries from PSV Eindhoven; worrying, considering how protracted this pursuit was.
  • A last-minute attempt to bring in Ainsley Maitland-Niles from Arsenal was allegedly undermined by a lack of enthusiasm from the manager.
  • Although Manchester United eventually rebuffed an approach to take midfielder Donny van de Beek on a season-long loan, it is now suggested that unnamed senior figures at Everton were opposed to signing the player.

Who are these figures? It could only be, surely, Rafa, majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri or a member of the Board. What can be gained from stories illustrating a non-aligned approach to transfer business emerging at this time? It seems there could still be factions in the Everton camp and possibly a fair bit of blame-shifting going on for this summer’s failures and likely Brands left carrying the can.

We Need to Talk About James

There are two versions of his situation to choose from, when discussing fallen star James Rodriguez. Either the player has been agitating for a move since his mentor Carlo Ancelotti quit his post as Everton manager or the club has been actively trying to force him out especially since he has a history with Benitez.

In reality, both appear true to varying degrees. It seems that the Colombian playmaker was open to a move as soon as Carlo departed and that this was accelerated when his old Real Madrid boss, Benitez, was appointed, as it is well known the two did not exactly see eye-to-eye in the past. Also, it was reported that Rafa told Rodriguez that he would “not be counting on him” and that he should look to find a new club on the first day of training at USM Finch Farm. That is the manager’s decision and a club looking to move an unwanted player out is perfectly normal and reasonable, particularly as James is the highest earner at the club by some margin and Benitez was aware that incomings would have to be financed by outgoings.

As the summer window progressed though, we’ve had some strange things going on – and I’m not referring to Rodriguez live-streaming his Call of Duty games on Twitch to hundreds of thousands of people! I’m talking about the leaking of his wages, as pressure mounted to shift him out and the ongoing narrative that the player not moving was actively preventing Everton from signing x, y, z players. This is being spun out to blame him for failures at the club, in my opinion.

The Toffees only signed the Colombian last summer and decided, for whatever reason, that his reported £200k per week wages were sustainable by an organization heading towards major problems complying with the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability rules. That, only 12 months later, this same player must be sold, or loaned out, in order for incoming transfers to be funded is frankly an embarrassing situation for the club to find itself in.

Everton Pre-Season Training Camp
James Rodriguez during the summer training camp in Orlando
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Now, in the days following the closing of the transfer window, we are getting a claim from Greg O’Keefe of the Athletic that Rodriguez’s wages are supposedly in excess of the £200k amount being reported and that Everton are still trying to move him out to a club in Portugal, Russia or Turkey, as those markets remain open for the time being. With the possible exception of Zenit St Petersburg, no club in any of those countries could get anywhere near to meeting James’s current wages without being heavily subsidized by Everton.

The player is supposedly complying with his contract by training and making himself available for selection and it seems foolish to me to not reintegrate him into the squad, rather than trying to desperately find him a new club and paying out most of his wages whilst not having him as a playing asset. Strange times indeed.

Uncharted Waters Ahead

If this summer’s lack of transfer spending could be attributed to a reset, due to financial considerations, then a recent statement by football finance guru Kieran Maguire that Everton are still in a big hole is a concern. Maguire claims that the Blues will post losses of around £100m plus for 2021, severely hampering their operating room in the transfer market going forward. So, despite the belt-tightening this summer, it appears that this austerity period we have entered into will not be short-term and may extend into 2022 and beyond.

To allow Benitez any room to manoeuvre in future windows, a major footballing asset will have to be sold and this sheds some light perhaps on the pursuit of Colombian attacker Luis Diaz. Whilst it is always welcome to find the club linked to exciting talent, it appeared strange that we went after Diaz so strongly, considering other pressing concerns in the team needed addressing and the general lack of funds available.

The right-footed attacker generally operates cutting in from the left side, with some similarities to Richarlison and the previous name linked with the Blues in Joaquin Correa. Having both in the squad would of course be great, but it seems like a strange priority unless he was being brought in as the Brazilian’s replacement.

It’s my view that Everton tried to get Diaz signed as they anticipated a large bid for Richarlison from Paris Saint-Germain, in the wake of the French club selling Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid, in the dying days of the transfer window. As it appears almost certain that Mbappe will instead sign on a free transfer to Madrid next summer, expect Richarlison to be sold at that point, with Everton using some of that money to sign Diaz. This would replace the Brazilian with a cheaper but still developing version and go some way to stabilizing the club’s perilous financial situation.