Earlier in the season while Everton had been in reasonable form, I highlighted a number of free agents whose contracts would be expiring in summer 2022 and assessed the value to the Blues should we make a move.
With Everton unlikely to get involved in bidding wars for too many transfers, there is much speculation that the Blues will instead be fishing in the free agent pool and now that the season is thankfully over and survival secured, I believe Everton will have a more realistic expectation of this particular market. Some of those I previously highlighted are also already earmarked for moves elsewhere.
If, as seems certain, Everton release Cenk Tosun, Fabian Delph and Gylfi Sigurdsson they will save around £13 million off the annual wage bill. The Toffees were also rumoured to be paying at least some of the wages of our two loan-in players Donny van de Beek and Anwar El Ghazi, and that could be up to another £7-8 million per annum depending on what was actually agreed in January. So, around the £20 million mark to reinvest in signing fees and salaries for any “free” agents that come our way. Given that Bernard when signed in 2018 was “free” but then reportedly the highest earner it is abundantly clear, especially given the financial plight, that even “free” there won’t be too many star names coming to the Blues. For “free”, they cost too much!!
Add to the equation that Everton finished 16th after a woeful season and you’re simply not going to attract the best free agents. Franck Kessie? Andreas Christensen? Forget it, they will get better offers elsewhere either financially or through the other team’s league position and current potential to challenge for trophies. It is possible of course that James Tarkowski is a more realistic target though he’ll cost us. Early rumours have his wages at £90,000 per week, which would put him in the top five earners at the Toffees.
There are plenty of options out there for players who are too good for their current teams and who would view Everton as a step up. They’d also be less likely to demand the silly wages or signing fees. I’ve listed a few below. Three of these players, like Tarkowski, have suffered relegation in the last few weeks and will be looking for a transfer elsewhere.
Amos Pieper is a 6 ft 3 inch centre back who has stood out this season for Arminia Bielefeld in the Bundesliga. His side have just been relegated and he will be keen to move on, having admirers in his homeland as well as reportedly being keen to play in England. Although taller than our ex-captain Phil Jagielka, there are distinct similarities in their play, an out and out defender who relishes a tackle or block, determined and no slouch across the pitch. He’s just 24 years old and a recent German Under 21 international. Although he’s not a household name in this country he is well regarded in the German top flight.
UPDATE: Pieper has agreed a pre-contract with Werder Bremen
Tom Lawrence is someone that Frank Lampard knows well. Essentially a quite tall (5 ft 11) left winger but he has also played over 90 senior games as a centre forward or second striker. He played one game for his boyhood club Manchester United and a handful whilst at Leicester City so you’d have to say he was unproven in the top flight but that didn’t stop us buying a certain Tim Cahill 18 years ago did it? His recent goalscoring record at Derby County where he was managed by Blues’ boss Lampard and most recently Blues legend Wayne Rooney is really good. His return is exactly 1 goal every 5 games which, for a winger, extrapolated over a season, gives you a return of about 8 goals.
Now 28, he won’t have an awful lot of re-sale value and he’d no doubt be classed as an “unexciting signing” by many. That said, Andros Townsend was dismissed before he started and but for injury his goals tally certainly left my eyebrows raised. Lawrence is a Welsh international with 23 caps, a good finisher and dribbler of the ball.
Florian Grillitsch is perhaps the most intriguing name and one that we have been linked with in the last month or so. Equally at home as a centre back or central midfielder his versatility could be invaluable, especially if Lampard deploys a trio of centre backs with a central duo in midfield. Being versatile sometimes begs the question “are they good enough to hold down a place in one position?” From what I have seen of Grillitsch the answer is “Yes”.
He spent last season with 1899 Hoffenheim at centre back but has played over three quarters of his senior games as a defensive, central or even an attacking midfielder. That is some versatility! He carries the ball well and reads the game effectively. Capped 33 times for Austria he is 6’2 and still 26 years old so there is a potential good re-sale on him if Everton were to take the plunge
Lee Buchanan, another Derby County player, is the youngest of this bunch at just 21 years old. As a bonus, he would still count as an under 21 player given his date of birth so would be over and above the 25 man squad limit for next season in similar circumstances to winger Anthony Gordon and striker Ellis Simms (if he returns to the club for next season of course).
Buchanan is a physically strong left back, probably more defensive minded than our other main option Vitaliy Mykolenko. Twice capped at England Under 21 level, he will also be known to the Blues’ boss although he broke through after Lampard’s departure. He’s a natural left-footed left back whereas we have had to deploy the likes of Jonjoe Kenny and Ben Godfrey there in recent times so he would prove a good challenge to bring the best out of Mykolenko.
It is difficult to say whether any of these suggestions or those you’ll have read about elsewhere would be resounding success stories but in terms of ability and, in most cases, potential re-sale value, plus a lower financial burden, these few have a fighting chance!
And, yes, I do know that 3 of the 4 players have one thing in common in that they suffered relegation this season but they should not be judged on that. Richarlison, Ben Godfrey, Jordan Pickford, Idrissa Gana Gueye, and a host of other players across the league have all come from relegated sides, all the more reason for them to be hungrier maybe?