Let me make it clear right from the start – I love Steven Pienaar.
Not in the sense of a schoolgirl crush on the latest baby-faced singer to come off the conveyor belt, but in a way induced by the little South African’s ability to play the game we know and love so very well and the way Everton’s performances are transformed from the mundane and predictable to the almost sublime when he plays.
Therefore like many others, I am at a loss to understand why Pienaar was not an equally roaring success at current owners Tottenham; it’s a mystery. Or is it such a mystery given the wealth of midfield talent Spurs have at their disposal? Parker, Bale, Van der Vaart, Krancjar, Huddlestone, Modric, Lennon, Sandro, Livermore – there are not many players around who would be guaranteed a starting place in any team with such vaunted competition.
If Pienaar could have produced the kind of form for Tottenham that he has enjoyed since returning to Everton, the pint-sized player may have turned out to be an inspirational purchase for Harry Redknapp. Spurs knew they were getting a talented footballer for a knock-down price, given the inflated sums being spent on the transfer merry-go-round at the time.
Also it may have been perceived as bolstering the squad for a side that could and probably should have secured Champions League football this season, although it was somewhat undeservedly snatched away from them by Chelsea’s bizarre Champions League victory against Bayern Munich this weekend.
But overall you have to question the motive behind Spurs signing Steven Pienaar in the first place (when money might have been better spent on a defender to cover the injury concerns surrounding England internationals Michael Dawson and Ledley King).
Well obviously Pienaar is a good player and was available at the time, you might think that this would be reason enough, but when you consider the Spurs side when Pienaar was acquired, it was difficult to see where the South African would fit into the team; a fact that Pienaar himself must surely have considered.
At Everton, Pienaar predominantly played from the left of midfield, a position he made his own and here he established an almost telepathic relationship with Leighton Baines that produced much of Everton’s attacking threat; he did very occasionally revert to the right or even into central midfield but it was on the left that his play gained most plaudits.
Essentially then Spurs bought him as a left-sided midfielder but the club already had a world-class left-winger in the shape of the multi-million pound rated Welsh international Gareth Bale. It therefore begs the question as to whether Spurs really needed him? And the probable answer to that is simply, no.
There have been suggestions in the media that Pienaar was signed simply as a financial investment by Daniel Levy; a good bit of business. Because of Pienaar’s impending contract expiration in the summer of 2011 and his apparent stance regarding his wage demands at the Toffees, Everton decided it was better to cash in during the January transfer window rather than risk losing him for nothing in the summer.
Given the circumstances though they had to accept a fraction of the midfielder’s real worth, Tottenham acquiring his services for a rock bottom price of £3 million. Given Pienaar didn’t have a dramatic dip in form or even pick up a nasty injury, Spurs would have a good addition to their squad, albeit on the bench for the most part, and would almost certainly be able to recoup if not make a profit on the 30 year old if circumstances changed.
What Harry Redknapp’s involvement was in all of this is uncertain; you could speculate that he did in fact not have much of a say in Pienaar’s signing but only those involved will know the facts surrounding Pienaar’s move from Goodison Park.
However, Redknapp doesn’t seem to be the type of manager that would allow his Chairman to act as a puppet master. I did wonder, when David Moyes swooped for Pienaar in January, whether the South African would be able to recreate the form he regularly produced at Goodison Park before his move south; fearing that due to his relative inactivity since leaving the Blues he would be a shadow of his former self.
How wrong I was, Pienaar almost immediately recaptured the form that once made him a firm favourite with the Goodison faithful, perhaps at times surpassing the performances that once earned him so many plaudits in his first stint with the Toffees. Furthermore his relationship with Baines seemed to spontaneously re-ignite, almost as if he had never been away.
Those who have followed his progress since his return the Blues will be well aware of the impact he has had on Everton’s resurgence in 2012 but to put things into perspective. Steven Pienaar attempted four more through balls than anyone at the club, attained the most assists of any Everton player and scored four goals equalling his previous best goal tally in the league.
His presence not only reignited his partnership with Leighton Baines, the two combining to great effect down the left, but Pienaar has probably aided Baines in heading both the number of chances created (67) and number of crosses (242) statistics at the club.
As Everton look towards the summer and the impending transfer activity when the window opens, Steven Pienaar must be top of the Moyes wishlist. The increasingly tedious and demoralising issue of lack of funds still remains and should Tottenham put too high a price on Pienaar, Moyes may fail to get his man, especially as there are reports that other clubs are showing interest in the midfielder.
The Mail have recently suggested that Sunderland’s Martin O’Neill may be keen on the player; a club likely to overwhelm Everton’s financial limitations and subsequently further dent Everton’s hope of resigning Pienaar. All of this could have been avoided had Everton been a little more street smart in their transfer dealings in January.
Had Everton, as Howard Kendall has this week indicated, introduced some sort of clause that would give Everton buy-back priority this summer and an agreed fee, all this hassle could have been evaded; Kendall although did admit that ‘hindsight is a wonderful thing’ when it comes to matters such as these.
One thing both Everton and fans can draw some hope from is the fact that Pienaar clearly loves the club, and hopefully you would put money on Everton being Pienaar’s desired destination for the start of the 2012/2013 Premier League season.
He knows he is worshipped at Goodison Park, can guarantee a starting place and has a chance of gaining European football at a club showing tremendous improvement (but for a few hiccups along the way).
Pienaar’s signing is imperative, and the Everton board should be pulling out all the stops to provide Moyes with the finances to make Everton serious challengers for a European place at the end of next season (maybe even a cup). I will be searching down the side of my sofa for any spare change, because the Toffees may have to pay more to get their man than they might have originally anticipated.
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