Wild, uncontrollable, kiss-me-quick panic as bloodthirsty sharks circle the waters of the River Mersey. But wait before you frantically flick through your contacts and wail hysterically down the blower to Police Chief Martin Brody for assistance (you won’t get a reply from that discourteous brute anyway).
This isn’t ‘Jaws Five’ – or six or seven, or whatever pointlessly prolonged number its got to – but rather a (admittedly laboured) metaphor involving metaphoric beasts, metaphorically tailing and taking Everton’s top talent; namely Jack Rodwell and Steven Pienaar.
For Everton fans the reality is no less disconcerting. Every summer it seems speculation involving our best players is rife and, unfortunately, this year is no different.
The precocious Jack Rodwell has continually been linked with a trip down the M62 to the red half of Manchester. Although apparently a ‘blue through and through’, the fact Man United are tracking him doesn’t fill me with confidence since I seem to recall another Everton prodigy declaring his devout love for the club before breaking old lady’s hearts – no reference whatsoever to rumours carnal in nature – and hotfooting it to pastures apparently greener. However much it pains me to admit it, when Man United come knocking heads will be turned.
Steven Pienaar is the other major question mark. Having begun earlier this year, and despite his agent asserting his future would be tied up before the tournament, contract talks with the 28 year old former Borrusia Dortmund star seem to have been put on hold until after the World Cup.
Unsurprisingly, a cluster of clubs have been keenly keeping a beady eye on the situation; with Tottenham, Man United, Chelsea and Bayern Munich all potential destinations for Pienaar this summer.
Both players have indicated, or at least vaguely implied, they would like to remain at Everton and the Goodison faithful – me included – will certainly hope this is the case. Pienaar has been the standout star at Everton this year, with an impressive concoction of work-rate, dexterity and deftness of touch seeing him deservedly pick up the club Player of the Year award. Whilst Rodwell – although used relatively sparingly after an enforced early run in the team – undoubtedly has enormous potential; most vividly demonstrated when rounding off a 3-1 victory over, possible future employers, Man United back in February.
However, the situation at Everton does usually dictate that to buy players we have to sell; just preferably not the prized assets. It is also clear from previous years that every player has a price and we know all to well that if a player really wants out he is likely to get his way, or probably shouldn’t be at the club anyway.
Selling Pienaar could represent great mark-up value; having signed him for just over £2 million, Everton have slapped a £20 million price tag around his neck, although the actual value would be reduced somewhat with Pienaar entering the final year of his contract.
David Moyes will not be overly interested in mark-up value when – given what a shrewd move it was landing him in the first place – finding a suitable replacement is likely to be extremely difficult and far more costly than Pienaar’s original price tag.
Rodwell could generate another big pay cheque from Old Trafford, which may well benefit Everton’s short-term need to strengthen in order to battle it out for a European spot next year. Since he hasn’t really featured as a first-team regular this would certainly be beneficial in beefing up a squad which is particularly light when ravaged with the dreaded injury curse, as often seems to be the case.
However, for a club with ambitions of consistently gracing the European stage the long-term implications outweigh these benefits. To sell Rodwell would not only sacrifice a player with great ability and the potential to form the crux of the team but also underscore and perpetuate Everton as a selling club for ‘the big boys’, rendering us forever condemned to the middle tier of the Premier League.
Much is yet undecided, though I do see Rodwell signing a long-term contract at Everton, whereas Pienaar is more of a worry (Modric to Man United, Pienaar to Spurs as a replacement?). But whatever happens, it is sure to be another pre-season of frustration and speculation at Goodison as the sharks keep circling the River Mersey.
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