In the latest instalment of Football Transfer Tavern’s Flashback series, we take a look back at a move that failed to deliver at the time, and how those errors can be avoided with a summer 2019 signing.
When Romelu Lukaku left Goodison Park for Old Trafford in 2017, Everton were left with a void in attack to fill, but £75m (BBC) in the bank after Manchester United spent big on the Belgian to hand Jose Mourinho his ‘big player’.
The Toffees swiftly got to work brokering deals for players that could strengthen Ronald Koeman’s side, and acquired a range of experienced men and potential stars in the making, such as Gylfi Sigurdsson, Henry Onyekuru and Davy Klaassen (TransferMarkt).
Sigurdsson has been an undisputed success since he joined from Swansea City, ending last season as Everton’s joint-top goalscorer in the Premier League. Meanwhile, Onyekuru’s failures to secure a work permit saw the Nigerian winger categorised at the other end of the scale, having never played for the Blues before joining AS Monaco in the recent summer window (Liverpool Echo).
Klaassen also fell within the crop of 2017 signings not to make the grade on Merseyside, and was swiftly sold after one season, with the Toffees taking a substantial hit on the £23.6m (BBC) spent to sign the midfielder from Ajax.
Werder Bremen were the side who snapped up the former Ajax captain for £12m (Liverpool Echo) in 2018, and Everton will now be hoping they do not see the same failures with summer 2019 signing Fabian Delph.
Klaassen failed to meet the grade at Goodison Park due to the difficulties he endured trying to establish himself in the Premier League and in a new system, particularly when Koeman was sacked and one-time England boss Sam Allardyce was brought in to steady the ship.
The former West Ham, Newcastle and Bolton boss’ playing style was completely unfamiliar to what the former Dutch international was used to in the Eredivisie, and admitted as much to Elf Voetbal last year.
“I was not good enough for the game that Everton wanted to play,” he said. “It has to do with yourself, with style and with choices of the trainers. I noticed quite quickly that it would be a difficult story at Everton, even before Ronald Koeman was fired.
“I was used to the game at Ajax: always the ball in the foot. In England, I sometimes had the idea that the balls always flew over me.”
Thankfully for such an experienced Premier League player as Delph, he is unlikely to face the same future as Klaassen, despite having joined Everton from Manchester City in the summer, another possession-heavy side that passes the ball around more than most.
Pep Guardiola’s Etihad Stadium natives led the Premier League by some way for passes made last season – 26,575 to second-placed Chelsea’s 25,072 – and held an ever larger advantage for accurate short passes – 22,550 to 20,866, per data collected by WhoScored.
Everton, meanwhile, played 11,723 accurate short balls in the 2018/19 campaign under new head coach Marco Silva, and have maintained their position as the 11th-best side this term with 1,276.
This has helped Delph seamlessly slot into his new surroundings, with former England international Darren Bent describing his performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers to Football Insider as: “He’s all about getting about, getting the ball, moving the ball, he’s confident, [and] he goes about the game in the right way.
“He might be a player on big wages, but he’s worth what he earns. He’s perfect for them. He’s going to help them retain the ball, while he’s a leader for the young guys in the dressing room. He’ll bring something different.”
Klaassen received similar praise when he joined Everton, but things did not end anywhere near where he would have surely liked.
“The Premier League will be a big step up for Klaassen, so success is not guaranteed,” Adrian Clarke wrote about Klaassen on the official Premier League website. “But his intelligence and endeavour should make him a popular figure on Merseyside.”
But come the following summer, the Press Association (via The Guardian) noted his Everton career had been a nightmare, and that ‘the Dutchman’s time on Merseyside was so bad that he almost joined Napoli on loan in January only for the move to collapse at the last minute’.
Everton will be hoping Delph working under Silva avoids the England midfielder facing a similar future to Klaassen, and potentially show what the Dutchman could have offered the Premier League had he worked under a different manager.
Everton fans, could Klaassen have offered something to your side had he worked under Silva? Let us know in the comments below…
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