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Why Everton Will Risk Losing Steven Pienaar

Despite being in the last year of his contract and being the only Everton player not to sign a long-term deal in recent weeks, Steven Pienaar will apparently remain at Goodison Park for at least one more season. The club can continue contract talks with Pienaar until January, at which time he will be free to negotiate deals with any club and leave Everton on a free transfer in July.

Everton boss David Moyes appears to be taking a huge gamble by not selling Pienaar. The South African midfielder has attracted interest from multiple clubs this summer, and now would be the cash-strapped club’s last chance to make any money from his sale.

However, Moyes has plenty of reasons to let that transfer cash sit on the table — the biggest being Pienaar’s own words. When Bayern Munich came calling last February, Pienaar told the press he wasn’t really so keen on moving.

“I feel this is my home. The supporters have always been good to me and I always give 100%. I definitely aim to play here for a lot longer – why not? Talk of moving is only rumours and I am definitely enjoying my football here.”

Granted, Pienaar might have changed his mind about the Toffees since then, but with so many of the winger’s teammates — most notably Mikel Arteta and Jack Rodwell — committing to Everton for the long term and trying to convince him to do the same, it’s possible that Moyes is banking on Pienaar remaining loyal to the club and signing a long term deal.

Moyes, however, also has a very pragmatic reason for keeping Pienaar on the books for one more season — he can’t sign his natural replacement until January.

The Toffees and their supporters might have held out hope that Landon Donovan, who had an eye-opening loan stint with Everton last winter, might return to Goodison Park in the summer. A wildly successful World Cup run, however, raised his asking price to more than £10 million, which Everton wasn’t ready to pay.

Even if Everton could have paid that fee, however, Major League Soccer wasn’t ready to let its marquee star go just yet — not before the Los Angeles Galaxy had one more playoff run with its roster intact. The prospect of a star-studded L.A v. New York championship game, which would feature Donovan and league-leading scorer Edson Buddle on one side and Thierry Henry, Juan Pablo Angel and Rafa Marquez on the other, is simply too tantalizing to the marketing staff at MLS for them to allow Donovan to leave before season’s end.

As a result, selling Pienaar now would leave Everton with only Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Leon Osman available as pure wing players for up to four months. If you squint just enough, you could see Arteta or Victor Anichebe playing on the wing, but Arteta is far more effective in a central role, while Anichebe is more striker than winger. That lack of depth is something a club with European aspirations — not to mention that has experience with injury-thinned squads — can’t afford to risk.

This brings up another important reason for Everton to keep Pienaar around — his versatility. Pienaar can play virtually any role in midfield. Last season at home against Manchester City, with Arteta and Tim Cahill unavailable, Moyes plugged Pienaar in central midfield with Marouane Fellaini, and he not only proved extremely effective in possession, but he scored the goal that put Everton ahead. Should injuries impact Everton’s midfield again this autumn, the club would be much better off with Pienaar than without him.

Perhaps the ideal situation for Everton is for them to sell some other squad players before the transfer window closes (both Yakubu and Joseph Yobo are tipped to be sold), use that money to bring Donovan back to Goodison Park, then hope that loyalty wins out and Pienaar will stay. It’s a calculated gamble on Moyes’ part, but it could pay off huge dividends for the club in the long run. Plus, in the short term, it keeps Pienaar away from a club like Tottenham Hotspur, who might be competing with Everton for that all-important 4th-place spot this season. That battle might be worth more to the club and its supporters than any transfer fee.

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  1. Roberto Birquet

    August 27, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Good article, it has answered some of my questions. I haven’t understood why Everton have simply accepted that Pienaar won’t re-sign, and so sell him to fund a move for Donovan. I had thought that player-power as we say in England would allow Donovan to choose whether he wanted to come back to Europe this summer.

    Donovan’s age: He does not have a long time left at the top of the game. And top of the game means Europe: either, England, Spain, or maybe Germany, Italy, and slightly lower, France. The MLS is at the level of England’s second or third divisions, quality-wise. As for Everton not wanting Donovan at 28. The write has nailed that. He is the same age as Pienaar, so nothing would be lost in a straight swap. It’s right to have a mix, and Everton have youngsters, too. In fact he is the same age as Arteta, for whom Everton could have demanded a near-£20 million fee. But the club has pushed the boat out to keep him.

    The truth is, Everton has only one winger after Pienaar, and it is neither Osman nor Bilyaletdinov: they are more central players – especially Osman. The new signing from France, Gueye. He’s 19-20, and plays on the left. Looks good, too. Losing Pienaar for nothing in a year would be disastrous. But as the writer says, without Donovan immediately, maybe the club recognises its lack of back up and is finding it difficult to get an alternative in.

    • Roberto Birquet

      August 27, 2010 at 1:12 pm

      I haven’t understood why Everton have simply accepted that Pienaar won’t re-sign.

      I meant: I haven’t understood why Everton have simply not accepted that Pienaar won’t re-sign.

  2. ScottG

    August 26, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Pienaar will sign provided Everton “show him the money”. The problem is that he wants Arteta-level money and Moyes doesn’t want to give it to him. I’m pretty sure Peanut wants to stay at Everton and is willing to back down a little on salary but it remains to be seen how much. If he doesn’t resign by January, he’s likely to start receiving big offers from other teams and will likely leave.

    It’s a tough decision for Moyes but I still think he needs to get it settled this week. Either offer him a little more money in salary or start looking for buyers. The risk of losing him for nothing is huge for a club like Everton.

    I think Bily and Osman can hold down the winger positions for now and Seamus Coleman showed yesterday that he could perform nicely as a winger in a pinch.

  3. DZ

    August 26, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Interesting background on this situation and well-written.

    As a Wigan fan, I hope when Wigan lose n’Zogbia (notice I didn’t say ‘if’), they will move for nearby Pienaar on a free in January. I’ll be happy to see Donovan move to Everton again (hopefully permanent, not loaned), and Pienaar to the Latics.

    Wishful thinking perhaps…

  4. EvertonfanKY

    August 26, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Its a tough one whilst I wonder why Everton won’t sell and get someone else in. Maybe they are taking a gamble by seeing if he will sign if Everton finish in a decent league position or qualify for europe this season.

    I can see Donovan coming back to Everton in the Jan transfer season for a short loan period.

  5. scPhillyfan

    August 26, 2010 at 6:19 am

    Everton needs to sell to have the money to spend. Unlike Man City and other clubs consistently in the top 7-8, they have no transfer. They play in the oldest stadium in the Premier League and lack the revenue generators like luxury suites and the like. So if they sell Pienaar then they maybe able to afford Donovan.
    But MLS wants Everton to pay through the nose, which they won’t. I don’t blame either party here. MLS wants to keep its star and Everton doesn’t have the money to spend for Donovan. Hopefully a long loan can be worked out. Donovan is beloved by Everton’s fans which is truly amazing considering he was only there for 3-4 months.

  6. Dar

    August 25, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Donovan seems like a late bloomer, though. He’s played better this past year than he ever did when he was younger, YMMV. I don’t know–Everton wants him to win games for them but won’t pony up the cash? Cheapskates. Oh sure, wait until winter when you’re in last place in the standings and then bring him in to salvage what’s left?

  7. Brian

    August 25, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I wouldn’t bank on Donovan coming to Everton, Although Moyes certainly likes LD, remember that he is 28 right now, and there is a price Moyes will not budge above to buy him. In addition, I wouldn’t be suprised if Piennar were to leave in the summer that one of the young guys steps in, remember that Rodwell is tipped to eventually have more of an attacking role, or Moyes will try to find a lesser known player who he feels can step in and contribute

    • Dave Warner

      August 25, 2010 at 5:24 pm

      To be fair, Pienaar is also 28. I actually think Donovan and Pienaar are pretty equivalent players, the difference being Donovan being more capable at striker while Pienaar is more capable in a holding mid role.

      The two of them played very well together, though, and Everton’s average points per match jumped with Donovan in the lineup. The question is whether MLS will lower its asking price in January. If not, we could see a longer loan deal happening that lets him remain at Everton until May.

      LD won’t leave now, though. MLS wants him around to help sell the playoffs this fall.

  8. LS

    August 25, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Just shell out the $$ for Donovan now. Geez.

  9. mike

    August 25, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I reckon pienaar might stay, yobo and yakubu have just been confirmed not to be leaving the club maybe pienaar will be next.

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