Uncharacteristically for Everton and just a few days after the squad returned from their summer break, the playing roster at Goodison Park has been bolstered by four new signings in quick succession. New manager, Roberto Martinez, has set about strengthening his options as soon as possible as he prepares his new charges for the season ahead.
Firstly, he has raided his former club, Wigan Athletic, to snap up FA Cup winners Arouna Kone, Joel Robles (who was only on loan last season at the DW Stadium from Atletico Madrid) and the out-of-contract Antolin Alcaraz. Obviously, being acquainted with these players in the first instance and probably the terms of their contracts has helped expedite their moves so early in the transfer window. Relegation and the prospect of a year in the championship can only have aided to the lack of fuss involved in the move for Kone in particular.
What has been impressive has been the speed at which both Alcaraz and Robles have been convinced to rejoin their ex-gaffer. And having added the ‘easy’ or ‘obvious’ targets to the Toffees’ roster, Martinez pulled off a surprise by securing the services, albeit only for a year’s loan, of Barcelona’s Gerard Deulofeu, one of Spain’s most promising talents among a plethora of exciting young prospects. The 19-year-old forward, looking for top level experience while he waits his turn for first team action at the Camp Nou, chose Merseyside, we are led to believe, on the strength of his meeting with Martinez. It’s unlikely that Everton were the only interested party in the chase for Deulofeu, so it is to Martinez’ credit that his persuasive skills have won the day and it also augurs well for Everton’s future forays into the transfer market where under his predecessor, David Moyes, the Blues have continually struggled to recruit players.
The imaginative and exciting Deulofeu signing would never have occurred under Moyes. The new Manchester United manager’s scouting network and connections wouldn’t have allowed it for one thing, but also the Scotsman’s formulaic approach to the selection of transfer targets means such left-field signings were out of the question. That’s not to say that he failed in his time in the transfer market during his eleven years at Goodison. Far from it. We are all very aware of the lack of funds he had to deal with, and under those circumstances, Moyes’ value for money record merits the utmost respect. He must also be given his dues for his ability to develop seemingly lower profile, cheaper players into respected, higher valued Premier League performers, and in the current cases of Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini in particular, much sought after commodities.
But what the Deulofeu signing suggests is that Everton’s new boss may be about to sprinkle an already well organised and productive side with a touch of technical flair and creativity, which at times last season, proved their undoing in their quest for a Champions League place. Too many times, Everton’s final ball went awry, a mazy dribble was foiled or an air of tactical predictability hindered them when draws failed to materialise into victories. Perhaps one or two more of these potential transfer gems by Martinez can push Everton up the hill that Moyes just couldn’t crest, and without having to fork out the finance they certainly don’t have as part of the bargain.
At Old Trafford, Moyes now has everything he could ever have dreamed of in terms of transfer funds and pulling power that he never had on Merseyside. His opportunity to shine has come and he can no longer revert to the list of excuses so readily used at Everton for transfer difficulties. Does he have the wherewithal to be a success and build upon the incredible legacy bestowed upon him by Sir Alex Ferguson? The quality of the signings he can attract and the ease with which deals are concluded this summer will provide the first acid test to his capabilities for the biggest job in football.