By Jamie Quinlan
So as I sit and write this Wayne Rooney is back at Everton after 13 years and Romelu Lukaku is going the other way.
Rooney is our 6th senior summer signing and there seems to be no stopping the juggernaut that is Farhad Moshiri’s Everton Football Club during this transfer window. In years passed the loss of a player of Lukaku’s undoubted ability and importance would be seen as nothing short of catastrophic. In this brave new, Moshiri funded era, there’s hardly an eye lid batted.
Clearly there’s a context to this in that I think the vast majority of evertonians are sick to death of the circus that surrounds Lukaku especially during international breaks and transfer windows. It’s fair to say Romelu liked to talk and didn’t seem to give to much of a thought to his former employer when he did. For all of this though the loss of a 20 goal a season striker is going to be difficult to deal with.
Well actually it isn’t anymore. The way that the club have gone about their work the last 18 months or so is such a departure from previous years it’s a joy to watch it unfold. I’m not going to use this piece to debate the rights and wrongs of previous regimes, my main point is to praise the work of the current one.
It’s been clear for years that Everton needed finance. Mr Moshiri has provided that in spades. Off the pitch he’s cleared the club’s debt, given Goodison a makeover, secured new & more lucrative sponsorship deals and set in motion the building of our new stadium on the banks of the royal blue Mersey at Bramley Moore Dock. Unthinkable 18 months ago. On the pitch the removal of Roberto Martinez after 4 seasons including the last 3 consecutively disastrous years in charge cost a lot of money as did the recruiting of Ronald Koeman as Head Coach & Steve Walsh as Director of Football. In his first two transfer windows we signed some players for fees we would not normally have payed, notably Yannick Bolasie from Crystal Palace & in January Morgan Schneiderlin from Manchester United. However finance wasn’t the only thing I felt we were lacking at the top level. I felt we needed direction. A plan that was designed to make us more competitive year on year. Not surviving season to season.
Given all that I’ve mentioned already Farhad Moshiri has a plan for Everton Football Club.
We all knew at the end of the season that we needed to get the bulk of our transfer business done as early as possible as our season 2017-18 would begin on 27th July with Europa League qualifiers. There was still some chargrin amongst sections of the support at the lack of activity at the end of May but then June happened and the plan the board, Steve Walsh and Ronald Koeman had concocted sprung into action. Operation Goodison Revamp began. Almost out of nowhere Jordan Pickford and Davy Klaassen were signed. Pickford a very promising young goalkeeper who made an impact in the PL last season with Sunderland and Klaassen, the captain of Europa League finalists & Dutch giants Ajax. These two were followed up by the capture of Henry Onyekuru. Onyekuru was the leading scorer in Belgium last season and was signed from Eupen and was immediately loaned out to Anderlecht for a season. The way this deal was conducted and constructed has all of the trademarks of a top club. A club that is slick and efficient. A club that knows what it wants and knows how it’s going to get it. It’s the kind of deal you could quite easily imagine Chelsea making. It stinks of Moshiri & Steve Walsh for me and was very impressive.
The influence of our Director of Football was keenly evident in our next ‘double event’. Sandro Ramirez & Michael Keane were signed from Malaga & Burnley respectively. Sandro is widely regarded as one of the hottest properties in La Liga and was on his way to a transfer banned Atletico Madrid before Steve Walsh coaxed him back into negotiations with Everton and sold him our vision. The fact that his clause only required us to pay £5.2m for him makes this an absolute triumph of a deal. Michael Keane cost a little more than Sandro but, as a defender myself in my playing days, I feel will be just as valuable. Keane is a player who Steve Walsh has kept an eye on for a number of years and even made attempts to sign him for his previous club. Keane has had a very impressive season in the PL with Burnley resulting in international recognition. He’s at a really good age, a common theme through our signings, & will be a mainstay of our defence for years to come.
So we’ve 5 new players in the door at USM Finch Farm before they were required to come through the door at USM Finch Farm!!
Unheard of but brilliant. Everton being proactive in their transfer dealings, seeing the deals through with ruthless efficiency. Obviously having the finances is massive but the way we’ve gone about our business is very impressive. We’re not finished there though. Over the weekend Wayne Rooney was announced as an Everton player once again. There are many ways to look at this deal including media exposure and commercial gain (indeed, my 5 year old son wants “Rooney 10” on the back of his away kit when he gets it!!) but for me the most important way of looking at it is on the pitch. Clearly he’s not the 18 year old who left us. He’s clearly not the mid 20’s powerhouse behind so much success at Manchester United. We have to know what to expect from him. What he is now is experienced. He knows what to do and when to do it to win football matches. And win important football matches. We don’t have anyone like this in our squad currently. With the greatest respect, Arouna Kone & Enner Valencia aren’t in the same conversation as Wayne Rooney. His quality with a football hasn’t diminished only his speed around the pitch. With younger players around him he can, and I believe will, orchestrate our play over the next two years. He will educate the younger squad members on what it is like to prepare for big games. How to get into the right mindset for big games, because make no mistake Everton are once again a big game for anyone in the Premier League whether the opposition choose to admit it or not. Dominic Calvert-Lewin & Bass Sambou & all of the younger forward players in the U23 Title winning squad should be pestering Wayne every day for little snippets of his know how & experience. They will be better players for him being around. I also believe that Ross Barkley will benefit too. A fellow scouser who’s been there and done it all coming to play for Everton should be something Ross relishes. Technically I believe Ross has it all. I believe all he lacks is the correct mentality. Wayne could help him with this and then some. Being from the same city will mean that they will know how to communicate with each other better than most. Wayne as Ross’s mentor is a must for me. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Rooney with the captain’s armband on in the games Phil Jagielka doesn’t play in or permanently if Phil decides his future lies elsewhere.
As I said before we aren’t stopping here either. There is more come from us in this transfer window and there is still plenty of time left. Strong links to the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Olivier Giroud make for pleasant reading. Players like those will further improve us. Make us more competitive on more fronts. Manchester United showed us how to win a Europa League and I don’t see any reason why we cannot do the same.
So to round this ramble off, on behalf of my 5 year old Everton mad son & myself, I would like to say a heart felt thank you to the board, to Steve Walsh & to Ronald Koeman but most of all to Farhad Moshiri. Thank you for giving our club a direction again and a plan of how we’ll get there. Thank you for giving all Evertonians that bounce in their step once again. Thank you for restoring our belief that we will one day fill our trophy cabinet with silverware. Thank you for giving us back our hope. We have always and will always be a proud football club but the way you have gone about things in the last 18 months, especially in this modern football age, is something we’re all very proud of. Thank you.