Dutch international right back, Johnny Heitinga, has accepted a transfer from Atletico Madrid to Everton, completing a physical just under the transfer window deadline which closed at 5pm yesterday.
It’s a loss for Atleti and a serious loss for the Champions League competition (Everton competes in the Europa League but Heitinga is cup-tied for even that). I was looking forward to the rebels — “Los Colchoneros” (“the Mattress-Makers”) — of Madrid making a strong showing this year. Perhaps not.
Heitinga — a product of Ajax — is one of the quality right backs who’s lithe movement reminds a little of Cafu in his nimbler days. A skilled handler of the ball who gives firm ball on the ground and who is capable of launching stinging balls early across the 18 from wide space. He is clever, unpredictable, not easily read and not prone to tendency. He’ll set you up going outside then, later in the match, kill you driving inside. Unlike Ashley Cole, for example, Heitinga is the kind of wide back who keeps his wide opponents busy in their own end.
Moyes brings in Heitinga to replace Joleon Lescott who was snatched by Mark Hughes & Manchester City near the deadline. Lescott is a strong player, but this is at least a fair swap for the Toffees if Johnny can stay fit.
Heitinga rejoins his old teammate, Steven Pienaar, alongside whom he played at Ajax for five years. Said Heitinga, “I am looking forward to linking up with him again because he is a good player.”
Apparently, Heitinga was on a high salary in Madrid which Everton could not match (yet he now supercedes Mikel Arteta as Everton highest paid player). Nor can Everton offer Champions League competition this year. Even with these deficiencies in the bargain, a fine Dutch footballer feels the pull of the Premiership and the aura of living in Liverpool & environs.
My guess is Heitinga will take Tony Hibbert’s position wide-right; in which case it is unclear who among Baines, Yobo or Jagielka and others are best suited to partner Sylvain Distin in the middle of the back. It’s the kind of signing the effects of which will ripple through a side having its difficulties not a few months after just tasting the Wembley stage of an FA Cup Final.