Breaking News – Everton sign Scottish starlet James McFadden. David Moyes has confirmed what could be a shrewd signing in the acquisition of SPL Young Player of the Year; James McFadden. The young Motherwell forward has had a masterful season, scoring 19 goals, and Moyes will be over the moon to secure such a promising player for £1.25m.
Well that was eight years ago and McFadden was offloaded to Birmingham for an astonishing £5m in 2008, incredibly shrewd business. So how has he ended up back at Goodison on a free transfer? Because he’s the best that Everton can afford right now – a clear representation of the club’s current stature in the game.
McFadden is an average Premier League player at best – he scored 11 goals in 109 games during his first spell at Everton and continually struggled to get in the side. However, ignoring injury concerns, he could turn out to be a half decent signing by the Toffees; he knows the club, has played at this level and can play in differing positions. He won’t be a starter, but can definitely pad out a wafer thin squad. Some Evertonians may find this reality depressing.
So where has it gone wrong?
In 2004/2005 David Moyes’ Everton hit a metaphorical ceiling when qualifying, followed by not progressing through to the Champions League. A talented young squad consisting of the likes of Arteta, Yobo and Cahill were accompanied by some great senior pros in Carsley, Kilbane and Martyn. The two most prominent of these players, Cahill and Arteta, were signed for £1.25m and £2m respectively and have gone on to become flagship signings in David Moyes’ legacy.
However, that season has proven to be the highlight of the last decade and, despite qualifying for the EUFA Cup/Europa League three times since, Everton’s squad seems to be getting progressively thinner. Moyes has been impressive in keeping Cahill and Arteta (now left) at the club for so long, but has the retention and acquisition of these type of players been to the detriment of the squad?
When Arteta left for Arsenal, it was reported that he had to take a pay cut to force the transfer through. This suggests that the likes of Arteta, Cahill, Neville and Distin have probably been picking up big pay cheques over recent years; deservedly so. However, is there an argument that if a player outgrows his club’s current standing, the club should cash in a build again?
The goalposts have clearly been moved with cash rich clubs such as Man City, Chelsea, PSG and Anzhi all having oodles of money to spend. But, to an extent, haven’t Everton benefited from this – they did receive £24m for an average Joleon Lescott? They’re not shopping for the same players as these clubs, so surely wouldn’t be affected by inflated price tags.
Alex Ferguson has rebuilt his side continuously over the past two decades. I would suggest that David Moyes needs to be more productive in doing this, rather than hanging on to players who are established enough to earn Champions League wages. Look at Mikael Arteta for example; he was one of Everton’s biggest earners and spent the previous two seasons either injured or struggling for form. It must be heart breaking to pay out such large wages with such little return.
It is because of this that Everton should have an organic approach to the purchase, development and sale of their players. They should implement a structure where every season they look to sell one of their top earning, highest valued players and replace them with young, developing players from the lower domestic leagues or emerging foreign countries. Some may argue that Arsenal have had this philosophy in place for years.
In addition to these emerging players; it’s important to accompany their potential with maturity leadership. The Gooners go wrong by not complimenting these emerging players with colleagues who are coming to the end of their careers. Players who play in the middle of the park and can steady a ship without having to be too dependent on pace. Many of these 31-35 year olds are often available on free transfers (Sol Campbell, Ballack, Woodgate, Upson etc.) and can be vital whilst showing leadership in times of adversity – without being too much of a wage burden (cheaper and shorter contracts).
For clubs such as Everton knowing when to sell a player is becoming increasingly important. They need to have a price for each of their top players and, in turn, have a list of replacements ready to fill the gap. Each player has his own ‘club lifecycle’ and the more gifted managers will sell just as the player reaches their peak – because they know that they will lose value from that point onwards.
All of this suggests that, although being club heroes, Everton may have held on to their big players for a little too long. Arteta shouldn’t be taking a pay cut to join a bigger club and Everton shouldn’t be going into a transfer window without the ability to acquire players. This isn’t down to the lack of foreign investment; this is down to mismanagement of the current ownership and a player retention policy which damaging to the stability of the football club.
David Moyes is clearly a top manager. Now he needs to further prove it by letting go of his star players, investing in potential and growing the club in a sustainable manner. Maybe by achieving this he will be able to earn that top job he always gets touted for.
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