Following Everton’s sixth win out of six in pre-season, hopes are high on Merseyside that this form can continue into the Premier League season which kicks off in nine days time. Unfortunately, while the futures of midfielders Mikel Arteta and Steven Pienaar still hang in the balance, it is very unlikely that any further transfer activity will take place without a bit of wheeling and dealing.
Despite this grim outlook, Everton’s financial department may not yet resort to knocking on various doors in Walton rattling a tin, and there are certainly some viable names being linked to the Toffees.
In last night’s “Brotherhood” game, nobody for the Vina Del Mar side truly impressed as might have been expected beforehand, but the Argentinean goalkeeper Gustavo Dalsasso (wearing a pair of Gabor Kiraly’s tracky bottoms) was a different matter. With several point blank saves of the bravest quality, he shut out an utterly dominant Everton FC in the first half, and kept the score-line in single figures throughout the second, once the Merseysiders threatened to open the floodgates.
Perhaps most significant is the potential availability of Kevin Prince Boateng who, after a strong World Cup for Ghana, has many suitors. Although Lazio currently seem to lead the race for his signature, Prince-Boateng could at a push be joining Everton (should he choose them) for the grand sum of zero pounds and zero pence – although his wages will probably be a stumbling block, in which capacity Manchester City or Tottenham can step in.
This situation would only come to pass if Portsmouth are liquidated (certain sources state that they could be out of business within several days), and with a threadbare squad, another starved sailor may be tempted to jump the ruined ship Portsmouth.
The Everton midfield is known for taking a hammering more often than not, with terrible luck when it comes to longer term injuries. Prince-Boateng could prove his mettle in the centre of the pitch, as Marouane Fellaini continues to limit his playing time due to an injury sustained in the Merseyside Derby at Anfield in February.
Should this move not go ahead, then David Moyes may look to his Everton predecessor Walter Smith for midfield inspiration. It is no secret that Moyes has been snookering after Northern Ireland midfielder Steven Davis on and off for several years, but with an already well rounded midfield at Everton, his south of the border prospects look as dull as ever.
At 25, Davis is due to peak soon, and with Northern Ireland showing some improved performances in qualifying campaigns, his leadership qualities are self evident as he is nothing if not consistent. Davis also holds some proven Premiership pedigree, impressive with Aston Villa during both his youth team and professional days, winning three Player of the Year awards in 2006.
On a morose note, it seems that Croatian striker Nikica Jelavic will forego any negotiations with Everton, and looks set to join Rangers, having expressed a desire to move to Glasgow for almost guaranteed Champions League football – the “Old Firm” are consistent qualifiers. Another potential “in” is former Rangers player Michael Ball, who has been tenuously linked with a return to Everton for some time now. Despite training with Blackpool alongside Marlon Harewood, the prospect of a return to Merseyside may be too good to resist if Moyes is looking at a spare left-back.
Coming through the youth system with Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard, Ball joined Everton as a mere schoolboy in 1996, making a tough debut appearance one year later at Goodison against Tottenham (a game Everton won 1-0, and essentially needed to win to avoid a relegation fight on the final day). Ball is a modestly proven talent, and could represent shrewd business in terms of security in numbers.
With Dalsasso showing his credentials between the sticks last night, there is the possibility (since Everton already have Tim Howard and Jan Mucha) of Iain Turner moving back north of the border with one of the potential suitors being…. you guessed it…. Rangers.
Although Allan McGregor now rules the roost of custodians, Turner would arguably have a greater chance of first team action anywhere in the Scottish Premier League than in the FA Premier League, as his natural sense of presence was self evident against Vina Del Mar, but would not be significantly developed any time soon on Merseyside, given the fact he is third choice goalkeeper for Everton.
Ayegbeni Yakubu has also been speculated as one for the Goodison exit door, with confirmed bids from West Ham United, who seem determined to net the man who missed an open goal for Nigeria. Never truly the same since his devastating injury at White Hart Lane in November 2008, Yakubu has occasionally appeared depressingly off pace, and despite his somewhat harsh description by some as a “one season wonder” (referring to his 21 goals in 2007-08), it certainly looks like his Everton days are numbered.
A bid of £7m from West Ham was recently tabled and swiftly rejected. With main summer target Landon Donovan’s price tag standing at approximately £9m, a matching bid for “The Yak” would most likely be accepted. Rest assured his return to Goodison would be met with cheers rather than jeers, especially if it remobilises Everton in the market.
Perhaps the most unwelcome piece of news is the alleged compromise to sell striker James Vaughan for less than £2m. Blackburn Rovers are reportedly keen to bring the 22 year old to Ewood Park, and despite Sam Allardyce refraining from any purchases in the near future, a price tag of merely £1.5m would certainly be worth a punt for the East Lancashire side at any rate. Since becoming Everton’s youngest competitive goalscorer in a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace five years ago, Vaughan has been riddled with successive injuries and frustration up front.
Having been linked with several clubs, spending some time on loan at Leicester City last season, people (quite rightly) still believe he can produce the goods and fulfil his true potential. Although Derby County are also apparently interested, the lure of Premier League football would no doubt prove too much for Vaughan, and should any bid be successful, the payoff may be surprisingly good for Blackburn, but awful for Everton who need numbers more than ever as they aspire to crack the top four.
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