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ToffeeWeb Viewpoint

Resignation rather than outrage

29 January 2002

Tomasz Radzinski
Abel Xavier : Following Barmby across the Park

A year and a half after Nick Barmby rocked Merseyside by changing the badge he kisses from the noble Everton crest to the detested red emblem of Liverpool, Abel Xavier has become the latest player to make the short hop across Stanley Park in the direction of Anfield.

It comes as somewhat a surprising move given that Xavier's rhetoric — not only since his contract negotiations broke down but seemingly ever since he arrived at Goodison Park two-and-a-half years ago — has surrounded his desire to return to the Continent.  The Portuguese international defender seemed to have his heart set on playing for Benfica but may have found the allure of being able to stay on Merseyside and play Champions League football too tempting.

For Everton, the decision may have proven easier than it looked.  On the face of it, the club are allowing a proven international and hitherto valuable squad player to slip through their fingers because they are believed to have only offered him a pay-as-you-play deal.

In reality, Xavier was simply not available enough to be dependable and to justify a lucrative contract extension.  In 30 months at Goodison, through a combination of erratic form before the 2000 European Championships (during which he had some sort of renaissance) and a succession of spells on the sidelines with "a virus", he made just 49 appearances for Everton.

Yes, he was growing to be a solid and versatile squad member, but he never looked like the sort of player the manager could build a team around or even an automatic choice for first choice central defender.

Add that to Everton's continued financial problems and you have a scenario where the player simply wouldn't be worth the increased investment given Xavier's appearance and fitness record, and the more urgent need to strengthen the team in midfield and attack.  Faced with the prospect of getting nothing for him the summer, we might even look at the £800,000 fee as a reasonable piece of business, especially as it is half the amount Walter Smith paid for him in 1999.

As it is, Xavier is off the wage bill and with David Weir, Alan Stubbs and David Unsworth in competition at centre back — not to mention the gradual emergence of Peter Clarke — the Blues might have sufficient cover at the back for the remainder of the season.

All of the above seems to have influenced a mood of resignation rather than outrage at Xavier's defection among Everton supporters.  Whereas Barmby — a nearly ever-present player whom the fans had taken to their hearts with his badge-kissing antics — crossing the Park to join the Dark Side was seen as a knife to the back, Xavier's departure for Anfield has raised little more than a shrug of the shoulders.

Perhaps it's because we are familiar with his many absences through virus, or because he wasn't a superstar in his time at Goodison Park, or because deep down we know we can't afford the luxury of part-time players drawing full-time salaries (does that mean Ferguson is next to go?!). Or perhaps it's that we as Evertonians are becoming so accustomed to seeing players, particularly good foreign players, disappearing through Goodison's revolving doors that we don't really care any more.  And, with player loyalty fast becoming an anachronism in Premier League football, that is probably a good thing.


Lyndon Lloyd

©2002 ToffeeWeb, 29 January 2002


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