It took over a year from the first reported bid to the moment when he signed a five-year contract to seal a £40m-plus transfer from Swansea City but Gylfi Sigurdsson finally became an Everton player in mid-August, 2017.
It said a lot about the midfielder and the role that he was expected to play at Goodison Park that Steve Walsh and Ronald Koeman were so patient and so persistent in pursuing him, to the point that they allowed the saga to drag past the start of the both the Europa and Premier League campaigns in order to
secure a key transfer target.
Not only that, Farhad Moshiri and the Everton Board were content to sanction a club-record fee to sign Sigurdsson, smashing the previous record that the deals for Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane of just a couple of months earlier would likely have ended up setting had they not been surpassed so soon.
Koeman admitted after the Icelandic star signed a five-year contract that he was an important signing for the club and his record in South Wales where, he had become an indispensible member of Swansea's team, backed that up.
Swansea had reportedly turned down a £40M bid for him from Leicster City
during the previous month.
Fernando Llorente may have scored a clutch of vital goals towards the end of a campaign that had looked under Bob Bradley as though it was destined for disaster, but Sigurdsson was his key provider. Including the nine he scored himself, the midfielder was involved in 52% of the Swans’s goals in 2016-17.
Although he started his career at Reading – curiously enough, he had a trial with Everton as a child and even joined one of the Blues' youth teams on a German tour – and had loan spells at Crewe and Shrewsbury, Sigurdsson was signed by then Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas from German club Hoffenheim for £8.8m in 2012 after he had impressed on loan at Swansea.
He would spend two seasons at White Hart Lane without ever being able to hit the heights that his more recent form back at Swansea suggests he should have. He made 58 Premier League appearances for Spurs and scored eight times but eventually returned to South Wales in a permanent deal in 2014 that saw Ben Davies go the other way.
His increasingly impressive performances over two years at Swansea attracted the attention of Ronald Koeman who tried to make him one of his marquee signings after becoming Everton manager in the summer of 2016. A reported £25m bid was turned down and Sigurdsson ended up signing a new contract at the Liberty Stadium instead.
Koeman and director of football Steve Walsh returned the following year, however, determined to acquire one of their top targets and after weeks of wrangling by the two clubs over the final fee, a £40m deal with £2.5m in appearance-related add-ons was finally struck.
Having avoided most of Swansea's pre-season while the two clubs haggled, Sigurdsson had to wait for his full debut after coming on as a substitute in a 1-1 draw with Manchester City on 21 August. His first start came three days later in a difficult Europa League game in Split where he signed on
with an unbelievable 50-yard wonder goal just 13 seconds into the second half
that helped secure the Blues' passage to the group stages of the competition.
That moment of brilliance would prove to be the highlight, however, in what turned out to be a largely frustrating season for the
Icelandic international that mirrored Everton's own troubles until his first season at Goodison was ended prematurely by a knee injury.
Burdened by being one of the three nominal 'No.10s' signed in the summer of 2017, with Wayne Rooney and
Davy Klaassen ear-marked for similar roles in the side, Sigurdsson would spend too much time deployed wide on the left to be all that effective. While Klaassen failed to adapt to the Premier League and made just three Premier League starts, it was Rooney who was most often
entrusted in the central role until he eventually dropped back into a deeper-lying position.
Sigurdsson showed flashes of the ability that persuaded Everton to spend so much money on him but he suffered a knee injury in March 2018, depriving Koeman's interim successor, Sam Allardyce, of his services in what was a largely meaningless run-in to the season.
Thankfully for him, Sigurdsson recovered in time for the 2018 World Cup in Russia as Iceland made their debut in the Finals of the tournament as the smallest nation by population to do so. As expected, the Nordic nation's Talisman was their best player but, despite a 1-1 draw with Argentina in their opener, he was unable to steer them out of what was a very difficult group.
He returned to Everton mid-way through pre-season to assume the Number 10
jersey vacated by Wayne Rooney and, often playing in his favoured central role behind the striker under the more expansive style favoured new permanent Blues boss, Marco Silva, Sigurdsson began showing the form that the club believed it was buying when they forked out a record fee the previous summer.
He vied with new signing Richarlison all season long for the status of top goalscorer at Everton, with both eventually finishing the season with 14 in all competitions as the Toffees finished in
8th place in the Premier League. The Icelander took the club's Goal of the
Season accolade, however, for his stunning turn and long-rang strike against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium in October 2018.
Those A-list goals were to desert him, however, the following season,
when his contribution to the team became harder and harder to
appreciate and he would register just one goal from open play in the entire campaign. His poor form was one of the most vexing problems as Everton slumped into the bottom three by early December and Silva was sacked, to be replaced by Carlo Ancelotti.
With the Italian setting up his Everton
sides in a 4-4-2 formation, without a recognized No 10, Sigurdsson's disappearance as a force in the Blues' midfield continued and he increasingly became a focus of fan ire, his lackadaisical displays at direct odds with his enormous price tag. He began to get a little more traction in the side as the massively
disappointing first full season under Ancelotti entered its later
stages and with James Rodriguez's fitness became increasingly unreliable during Ancelotti's only full season, in charge, Gylfi was called upon more and more to provide the guile from midfield.
He was unable to build on that progress in the 2021-22 season, his last under contract with the club, however. As Everton announced that they had suspended a first-team player indefinitely, Sigurdsson
did not go to America for the Florida Cup, played no part in pre-season
training and was 'unavailable for selection' for the duration of the campaign, playing no senior games at all. His
contract expired in June 2022 when it was announced he had been released by the club.
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