Jamie Casey compares the ins with the outs as the Toffees make their counterparts sit up and take notice, again.
“Everton have always been noted for going out on the pitch to play football,” so said the late, great Dixie Dean. Fitting, then, that manager David Moyes claims he’d have no qualms over paying to watch his current high-flying side ply their trade.
The Toffees secured a fourth league win from their sixth game at the weekend, overcoming an early blip to comfortably beat Southampton 3-1 at Goodison Park, a victory which propelled them up to second place in the current Premier League standings.
With a pass completion rate of 86.5 per cent – only marginally inferior to that of Barcelona’s (87.8%) during their 3-2 win at Sevilla on Saturday night – Everton were neat, creative and clinical in front of goal, not least Nikica Jelavic.
The Croatian is one of a steady flow of successful recruits made during Moyes’ 10-year reign, with Saturday’s brace taking the January signing’s overall Premier League tally to 12 goals from 18 appearances. Not a bad return so far for a modest £5.5million.
The capture of Jelavic typifies Moyes’ incoming transfer philosophy – recruiting the most capable, cost-efficient target within Everton’s financial and attainable reach. Eyebrows may have been raised when the Scot splashed £15million on Marouane Fellaini in 2008, but, four years on, few would argue with that value for money.
Indeed, there has been no shortage of wise buys - many of which have been plucked from the Championship, namely Tim Cahill, Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka – but it is Moyes’ knack for making the right sale at the right time that has been widely undervalued.
Take Lescott, for example, a £5million buy from Wolves in 2006 who became an instant favourite of the fans after scoring 10 goals from defence in an eventful first season at Goodison. The relationship would last three years before a bitter transfer saga culminated in the England defender’s £22million move to Manchester City.
Lescott may now be in possession of a Premier League winners’ medal, but it’s difficult to argue in favour of his hefty price tag on close inspection of his individual displays during his time at the Etihad Stadium.
Either way, the injection of cash allowed Moyes to balance the books in his favour, whilst maintaining his team’s strength in depth with a handful of efficient, readymade replacements in the form of Sylvain Distin (£5million, from Portsmouth) and John Heitinga (£6million, from Atletico Madrid), both of whom remain on the club’s payroll.
Lescott was the second major sale of Moyes’ spell at Everton, the first being a certain Wayne Rooney, and on both occasions the Scot showed a high degree of patience and resilience in squeezing every possible penny out of the financially intimidating Manchester clubs.
The summer transfer window of 2012 proved yet another significant one for Moyes and Everton, with the departures of veteran servant Cahill plus up-and-coming midfielder Jack Rodwell, 21, being met with disgruntlement in some corners of the blue half of Merseyside.
The optimists, though, will point to Rodwell’s dubious injury record, and trust that Moyes has already used the £12million boost wisely in bringing in the impressive Kevin Mirallas and securing the re-signing of Steven Pienaar on a permanent contract.
Meanwhile, Cahill’s departure for New York Red Bulls looks a sensible sale while the 32-year-old still commanded a seven-figure market value, despite providing supporters with an understandable sense of grief.
It’s a case of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The two sales combined will allow Moyes to continue his fine work long into his second decade at the club, providing, as expected, the Scot pens an extension to his current deal which expires at the end of the season.
Last week, Newcastle took the unusual step of tying down their manager Alan Pardew to an eight-year contract - a risk by any stretch of the imagination. However, should Everton chairman Bill Kenright make a similar proposal to Moyes, sceptics would be in short supply.