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For most of last season, Anthony Gordon channeled the passion, desperation and energy of a fearful fanbase on the pitch. 2022-23 was supposed to be a season of further development for him at Goodison but a big-money offer from Chelsea has thrown up a hard choice for the club.

It might be every Evertonian’s dream as a kid — to one day pull on the Royal Blue Jersey and play for the club at the top level. Precious few get to realise that dream; even fewer get to cement a place in the first team, but for the past two seasons, Anthony Gordon has done it — not only on a more consistent basis than, say, the recently-departed Jonjoe Kenny and a more successful basis, perhaps, than Tom Davies but in such a fashion that he has earned the adoration of the supporters.

Not every club has a homegrown, die-hard fan in their ranks but Everton had one at a time they desperately needed it last season when they arguably came closer to being relegated than at any time since 1998. Gordon was almost an extension into the dressing room of a desperate and fearful fanbase; the avatar on the pitch for thousands of Blues whose angst and fears he shared as a boyhood Toffee.

For most of last season, but particularly in the weeks after Frank Lampard came on board and channeled that passion from the terraces into a successful bid to avoid the drop, Gordon played as if Everton’s top-flight depended on it. On him.

He went from a scrawny kid coming off a middling loan spell at Preston and struggling to deputise for James Rodriguez through a difficult autumn under Carlo Ancelotti in 2020 to being a regular in the starting XI under Rafael Benitez… but only after proving the Spaniard quite wrong about his ability to play a full 90 minutes.

Throughout the campaign, he ran himself into the ground for the Blue cause, sometimes defying all outward appearances that he had nothing left in the tank. Again, we loved him for it because it’s what almost all of us would do given half the chance and probably for free — run through brick walls and leave everything out on the pitch for the Everton cause.

With safety assured, another rebuilding project underway under a new director of football, and with Lampard at the beginning of what will hopefully be his first full season in charge at Goodison Park, Gordon’s remit has, naturally, been expanded. To the work ethic, the drive, and the blue-blooded intensity, the 21-year-old needed to add consistency, end-product and more goals to his game if he was to live up to his burgeoning reputation and his semi-ironic “Starboy” nickname.

It may take time. Certainly, the conditions under which he, alongside Demarai Gray and Dwight McNeil, has been forced to operate in the opening two games of the new season have been less than ideal, to put it mildly. With no centre-forward on the pitch until Salomon Rondon was introduced in the 63rd minute of Saturday’s defeat to Aston Villa, Gordon has been forced to alternate as a false nine and play a role of target man at times to which he is wholly unsuited.

With a bit more luck, Anthony might have grabbed a late equaliser at Villa Park rather than see two shots parried away by Emiliano Martinez but it hasn’t really been a surprise that he has struggled to make an impact and the Toffees have suffered back-to-back defeats.

Had one of those efforts gone in, it would have gone a long way to easing the doubts over his productivity in the final third where he, like Gray, has been accused of being profligate in possession and lacking genuine goal threat on a consistent basis. Indeed, Gray played 39 times in all competitions and scored six times, the last in the FA Cup in early January. Gordon made 40 appearances and scored four but there were signs that in a more settled side, one not dragged down by the increasingly desperate Benitez regime, he could weigh in with goals more often.

And that really has been the unfortunate thing for Gordon in his first two seasons as a first-team regular — the instability and the pressure of playing in a struggling side has robbed him, perhaps, of the freedom with which he played as a star in the Under-23s and even in his early cameos in the Carabao Cup.

It has been a long while since he tried one of those audacious curling shots that used to be his staple in Everton’s development sides and almost earned him a debut goal at senior level against Salford City two years ago. His set-piece deliveries of late have been poor, at least since his lovely assist for Jarrad Branthwaite at Chelsea last December. And he hasn’t been able to foster much confidence that in the counter-attacking situations on which the Blues have been so reliant over the past year, he won’t take the wrong option and run down a blind alley rather than execute clinically in front of goal.

In so many ways because all of those circumstances and his comparatively tender years, we still don’t know what Anthony Gordon’s ceiling might be. How good a player could he turn out to be in time and can he be the answer for a side that generally lacks goals and has done ever since Ancelotti’s tenure rather lost its way in its final six months?

And with the news that broke yesterday evening, Evertonians might never get to know the answer to that last question because Chelsea coming in with an opening bid that sources believe they will increase in the coming days throws up the possibility that Gordon might leave Goodison before this month’s transfer deadline.

When there was talk back in June of Tottenham being interested in signing him along with Richarlison, Lampard was adamant that he wanted Gordon to stay and that the club had no intention at all of selling him. Part of that might have been to head off fears among supporters that the Blues might be willing to sell off its most popular players this summer and part of it might have been a signal to Spurs, Newcastle or anyone else who might come knocking that it will take an awful lot more money to prise the homegrown winger away.

A big part of it, though, would surely also have been Lampard’s desire to have Gordon in the team he hopes to build; to hone and develop the talented but raw Scouser into the finished article for club and country. But every player has their price and if the belief is that Everton would consider a bid of around £50m, Anthony will also have his.

When the offers come in that high for an unproven Academy product, sentiment has to go out the window and the cold, hard business logic of a club in Everton’s financial predicament bringing in that much money, all of profit, should supersede the sadness that we might be losing a True Blue without ever having seen the best of him. Because, having seen Wayne Rooney go elsewhere and flourish, we’ve seen that movie before.

Based on the evidence thus far, however, Gordon isn’t Rooney and with the club still flailing in the straitjacket that is the Premier League’s profitability and sustainability rules and still looking some way short of having a team that could comfortably steer clear of the bottom three this season, “AG10” might have more value to his beloved club by leaving than staying.

His untapped potential could be huge but, as Francis Jeffers, Jack Rodwell and Ross Barkley proved, nothing is a given and no one knows what the future might hold. This time last year Dominic Calvert Lewin was, potentially, a £60m pound player. A year disrupted by injury later, the England striker’s value is currently up in the air. You would assume he will given the marvels of modern medicine and physiotherapy but no one knows at this point if the 25-year-old will ever regain a level of consistent fitness to enable him to perform at the highest level.

Put bluntly, Everton may never realise that astronomic transfer fee for a player for whom they paid a little over £1m a few years ago. It's for the simple reason that a career-altering injury can happen at any time, even leaving aside Everton's current financial situation, that any time an offer comes in for a player as high as £50m the club has to consider it very seriously.


The club's current situation does adds another dimension to the equation, though. At this particular juncture, with Everton unable to shift other more dispensable assets, the leeway a sale of this size could provide in the transfer market would be very valuable. Ultimately, that is what it's about now for clubs outside the so-called "big six".

Should a massive offer come and the board accepts it, it would be indicative of the club now doing what it needs to do — follow a model successfully implemented by its new peers like Leicester City and Brighton of either developing young talent or buying it cheap and selling the players on for huge profit. 

After years of fiscal insanity and waste in the transfer market, it might be the fastest and most sensible way that Everton can rebuild a squad capable of once again challenging for the European places and, ultimately, trying to break the hegemony of the so-called “big six”. Even if it means selling some of the family silver along the way… Let’s see if it comes to that.

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