There was a point during deadline day, at about 10pm local time, that things were looking pretty bleak for Everton Football Club. The Toffees were understandably lambasted by Wigan chairman Dave Whelan, with a £12million bid for James McCarthy – in which payments were staggered over four years – laughed off. Whelan subsequently claimed that a deal between the two clubs looked extremely unlikely to happen.
Romelu Lukaku, who emerged as a surprise target, also looked to have slipped through the net, as rumors surfaced that the Belgian was pushing for a move to West Brom instead of Everton. And just to compound matters further, Marouane Fellaini was edging ever closer to a Manchester United move and the sale of Victor Anichebe to West Brom looked all but wrapped up. It was looking like two out, none in for the Toffees.
Deadline day despair is an all too familiar feeling for Everton supporters. As events developed on the final day of the window, thoughts immediately turned to this time two years ago, when Everton lost Mikel Arteta, Jermaine Beckford and Ayigbeni Yakubu in the last minutes of the window. The club failed to bring in any permanent replacements. Unrest gripped Goodison Park and Everton had a very poor start to the campaign. But it couldn’t happen again, could it?
From an Everton point of view, thankfully not. In the end, the club did usher out Fellaini and Anichebe for a combined sum of circa £33million, a figure which represents some excellent business for the Merseyside club.
Roberto Martinez and Bill Kenwright also brought in some exciting players to compensate for their departures. McCarthy eventually ended up joining on a £13million deal and he is a player many expect to be a catalyst for Martinez’s stylistic shift.
And the signings didn’t stop there, as the Toffees managed to pip West Brom to the signature of Chelsea forward Lukaku on a season-long loan. Lukaku is a player many have already tipped to solve Everton’s striking woes, and his ratio of a goal every 122 minutes for West Brom last season suggests he may well do.
Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry also joined Everton for the remainder of the season. He could turn out to be a very shrewd acquisition, with the England international midfielder a player who the majority of City supporters seem sad to let go. Everton will gain a strong, composed and experienced player with a great sense for sniffing out danger. He should be an excellent foil for young midfielders like Ross Barkley and the aforementioned McCarthy.
So all in all, in terms of transfers, it has been a pretty good summer for the Toffees. Let’s not forget, aside from the deadline day dealings, the club have already picked up Gerard Deulofeu, Arouna Kone, Joel Robles and Antolin Alcaraz. But with the hyperbole of deadline day at the forefront of everyone’s thinking, Everton’s best piece of business has been somewhat overlooked.
This is, of course, that Leighton Baines remains an Everton player. It is no secret that Manchester United were pursuing the left-back fervently and according to reports, they made a late bid – their fifth offer of the window – of £15m for the England man. But so crucial is Baines to this Everton side, United were sent packing yet again.
And it is easy to see why Everton were so keen to cling on to Baines. The goings-on throughout pre-season and the early Premier League contests would have only strengthened the club’s resolve to keep hold of last season’s player of the year.
Baines has demonstrated an attitude and professionalism befitting of the great club he plays for. Just look at his performance in Everton’s recent draw at Cardiff. Despite all the ongoing speculation, he was as committed, hard-working and determined as ever.
Despite reports that he wanted to move to the champions (who wouldn’t?), he has conducted himself impeccably. Baines could have pushed harder for a move. He could have kicked up a fuss. He could’ve even handed in a transfer request. But his unwavering appreciation for Everton – the club who gave him a chance to flourish at the very top level – has shone through and he clearly respects the club’s decision not to sell. Level-headedness that is rare and refreshing when it comes to the modern day footballer.
To have sold Baines at this late juncture would have been a catastrophic blow for Martinez. The new boss is keen to maintain a host of the standout qualities from the previous regime and Baines is at the centre of that.
He is the heartbeat of this Everton team and was key to a chunk of the good things Everton did under Moyes. His tireless vertical forays up and down the left flank have been, and will remain key to Everton’s success. Being a defender by trade, it is easy to forget that he has developed into one of most creative players in Europe too. His surges from deep, wonderful crosses and expert set-piece deliveries remain Everton’s primary attacking threats.
Losing that influence, even with the attacking reinforcements the club has brought in, would have really hampered Everton. The club’s next move should be to make Baines, who is undoubtedly their best player, the club’s highest paid player. You suspect that a new bumper contract offer will be on the table soon.
He will be the key player in a squad that has a renewed sparkle and vibrancy. Everton now have in Barkley, Deulofeu, Lukaku and McCarthy some of Europe’s most prodigious young talents, and they are in turn complimented by some experienced campaigners. If need be, the money is there to strengthen the squad in January too, with the fees for Fellaini and Anichebe far surpassing Everton’s overall spend in the window.
Baines staying, and potentially signing a new deal somewhere down the line, is the coup de grace on a very prosperous window for Everton.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball