With two domestic loans already sealed and the money unlocked from Lucas Digne’s sale already spent, Everton’s late interest in Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli seemed like deadline day chatter at its very finest. It’s not the first time the Toffees have been linked with an outrageous transfer in the closing hours of the transfer window, and surely Spurs weren’t going to let their talismanic player walk away just like that especially when he was valued as one of the best players in the game just a couple of seasons ago.
Yet that’s exactly what happened as the Toffees somehow nabbed the player that Sir Alex Ferguson once dubbed as a ‘top player’ and had directed Jose Mourinho to sign during his ill-fated reign at Manchester United for a conditional free transfer. But it’s the creative accounting and financial wizardry behind the deal that has captured the fancy of Evertonians and football fans in general.
For years now, football supporters have complained long and loud at the compensation system that sees players get paid astronomical sums - for the common man at least - no matter how they play or if they even make the matchday squads. And any actual performance-based incentives are just add-ons, and do not actually affect their basic wages that they are owed. The lackadaisical attitudes of a number of Everton players have certainly increased that ill-will towards them even as the club plummets down the standings.
Enter Dele Alli.
The Milton Keynes-born midfielder joined Spurs permanently in the summer of 2015, and promptly began his ascent to the peak of his footballing powers, banging in the goals to such an extent that it was he, and not striker Harry Kane, that was the most valuable and desired Spurs player. His transfer market valuation climbed to €100m and remained around there while he played under Mauricio Pocchetino, with rumours that he was set to join the Galacticos at Real Madrid doing the rounds.
However, the disappointment of the Champions League final loss seemed to take a toll on Dele and his teammates, and he never went on to regain that sparkling form even as the managerial roulette wheel kept spinning behind him - a feeling that most of his new Everton teammates can sympathise with him on.
There is certainly an element of risk in Frank Lampard deciding to make him a contender for the #10 role at Everton, a team that has struggled mightily with no creativity from the attacking midfielder position even while they have pacey and talented wingers to run for days. However, the new manager on Merseyside has decided that he likes what he has seen, and feels he can bring out the best of the England international again who at 25 is nowhere near a lost cause. For Dele, he’ll only have to look to his left at Demarai Gray should he need the inspiration that he can not only get back to his best but possibly surpass that as well.
Back to the money, which is where the real work was done on deadline day behind the scenes. Everton have obtained the player on what is a conditional free transfer, only having to pay his wages of £100,000 per week, joint fourth-highest at the club.
The first condition is that the Toffees will have to pay Tottenham £10 million as soon as Dele makes 20 appearances. That is certainly not a number plucked out of thin air, as Everton have 18 games left to play in the Premier League this season, and with the player cup-tied after having featured for Spurs in the FA Cup, the Blues will not have to pay for him this season at all. Everton have a number of hefty expiring contracts this summer, and that £10m will be a lot more affordable next season.
This is a low-risk option for the Blues as it essentially makes the remainder of this season a trial period. If Lampard can get him back to his best and assuming Dele stays fit and features in every single game for the rest of the 2021-22 season, it can only mean that he’s playing well enough to be in the lineup. If it simply does not work out, then the manager is under no obligation to play him and Everton could feasibly move on from him this coming summer.
Remember, Dele is not just a flash-in-the-pan, one-season or one-tournament wonder - he has scored 67 goals in 269 appearances in all competitions for Spurs from the attacking midfielder position over seven years - that’s an output very similar to Tim Cahill’s 68 in 278 games, and there’s not an Evertonian alive who wouldn’t take that output.
It has been widely reported that the transfer fee could rise up to £40m if all the conditions, escalators and add-ons are met, the details of which remain murky. However, there is another number that has been mentioned - that he would have to play 80 games for Spurs to become eligible for the full £40m payment.
Even with two long Cup runs next season and Dele playing in every game of the season for the Blues, that will still be less than 50 games, so the Blues will not necessarily have to pay the additional £30m transfer fee until some point in the 2023-24 season. For the record, Dele’s durability is quite impressive with the player having played in 46, 50, 50, 38, 38, and 29 games in the last six full seasons.
Considering he is on a two-and-a-half year contract with Everton, he could have played 80 games in his contract year by which time Everton can already decide whether to extend his contract or sell him on before he becomes a free agent. Again, if he hits all the add-ons to make the £40m happen, then it will likely have seen Everton in the top six of the Premier League table, possibly a Cup win or two, European qualification and more, while on his personal performance objectives he would have had to score a bucketload of goals and made a certain number of England appearances, all of which are good things and worth the £40m, similar to what the Toffees paid for Richarlison.
All of this to say that Everton have hit on the perfect risk-free deal for a player that could hit some astounding heights again, the likes that we have not seen at Goodison Park for decades. And if they have to end up paying £40m for it, that will still have been worth it too.