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Cashing in the Golden Boy
Controversial ToffeeWeb columnist Peter Fearon contemplates the unthinkable

15 May 2004

I look with envy at the battle between two super rich investors fighting each other to put tens of millions at another club's disposal, while Everton's idea of a Bold March into the Future is to open a Royal Blue tchotchke shop on Ranelagh Street, very handy for the 17C.

The proposed new store will raise, by the club's optimistic estimate, an extra 39,000 a week in gross sales — not profit — or about the equivalent of another season of Kevin Campbell's valued contributions, plus something left over for a new state-of-the-art John Deere two-seater lawnmower or two.  I realize that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but still...  It was this revenue chasm between us and another club that got me thinking... then despairing... then concluding.

Ultimately, the only answer to our problems may be to sell Wayne Rooney.

Last November, ToffeeWeb ran a poll on selling Wayne Rooney for a hypothetical 35 million pounds. The results were not surprising:

  • 1,538 voted, which is a big turnout for these things. 
  • Just 8% of Evertonians fiscal conservatives, presumably preferred to sell Wayne Rooney simply to reduce our debt.
  • Another 23% would agree to sell Wayne to buy new players or fund a new stadium.
  • And a resounding 69% of Evertonians voted "no way, no how, never."

I remember voting, no way, no how, never — believing a talent like Wayne Rooney's comes along once in a lifetime.  He's capable of being the best naturally talented genius Everton has had on our books since Alex Young, the most prolific goal-poacher since Bob Latchford.  I haven't read anything about Wayne that you would have to call hyperbole.  I believed then it would be insane to sell him and half pint glasses at two paces to anyone who said otherwise.

Today, I would reluctantly but unflinchingly change that vote.

I would sell Wayne Rooney if the price was right and all of the money could be directed to buying new players.  I would do this especially if he has a spectactular Euro 2004 and the demand for him pushes up his asking price.  Here's why.

We are almost certainly going to lose him anyway someday, possibly for nothing.

When I voted no way, no how, never, I still believed that there was a chance of improving things at Everton in the short term and that he, Yobo, Hibbert, McFadden and Osman could be the men around whom an Everton Renaissance could be created.  But the reality seems to be somewhat different.  Despite our public dreams and private fantasies, next season's team will likely be largely indistinguishable from the team that surrendered so cravenly so often this term.

Oh, there may be a new face or two, a couple of happy snaps on the website of players holding up a shirt numbered "43" with "Arbuthnot" across the top, but dross-in dross-out will not improve matters significantly.

Wayne did not shine as much as he might have done this season, at least in part because most of the players around him are just not in his league.  He is George Best playing for Northern Ireland; Trevor Francis bleeding out his best years at Birmingham; Matt LeTissier being a big fat frog in a very small pool at Southampton. And unless we surround him with the kind of players some other clubs can, he will never be his best. And if he's not at his best he can't help Everton either.

It's a cruel Catch 22.  We can't keep Wayne Rooney unless we buy new players.  Absent some fresh investment, we can't buy new players unless we sell Wayne Rooney.

Unless we can raise capital elsewhere, selling Wayne will become absolutely essential.  For you can bet your life his agent has already analyzed the situation in precisely the same way I have. Someone with Wayne Rooney's talent should be on a bigger stage. He should be fighting for championship titles and pitting himself against the best in Europe.  Is David Moyes's Everton likely to offer him that in the next two or three seasons?  I don't think so.

He is no more likely to stay at Everton long-term than Alan Smith was likely to follow Leeds into the Losers' League.  The only question is whether he'll be under contract or out of contract when he goes.  If we wait until, God forbid, we are in Leeds's position, then the price clubs are willing to pay will come down, because they will all know we will be desperate to raise funds just to keep afloat.

I would begin by selling some club a first refusal for his services, an exclusive crack that would put other clubs at the back of the queue.  We might get 5M or more for that privilege if it we agreed to knock it off the final asking price.  Then next season, assuming money is just as tight, bite the bullet and say, goodbye Wayne.

We have to look at the up side.  A huge transfer payment, if spent on the right three or four players, could do more to transform Everton's fortunes than Wayne Rooney ever could.  It will be sad, but necessary.  It would be a bigger tragedy to lose him on a Bosman or sell him cut price after relegation just to make up the shortfall in television revenue.

Think of the money as the most important goal he'll ever score for us.

Peter Fearon

As much as we all dream that Everton can start challenging for honours straight away and keep young Wayne at Goodison for his entire career (a la Ryan Giggs), we all know that he won't be with us forever.  However, to conclude that we should sell him now for the benefit of the club is to assume that

a) Kenwright et al would get the right price for him (the paltry £20M figure being rumoured all over the place the moment is not the right price);

b) the money will be spent wisely and not merely wasted on another of Luvvie Bill's "signings for the people"; and

c) the club is better off from without him, either in terms of his ability to win games on the pitch or the bums he'll put on seats off it.

I'm not confident on any of those points, let alone all three.  Wayne Rooney is Everton right now and there will be mutiny if he is sold. — ToffeeWeb

Reader responses

It's a shame that it has come to this; the possibility of selling our prize asset... the person around whom our team was to rebuilt over the next few years.  From a completely objective financial point of view, it would indeed make sense.  I can see two scenarios unfolding, both of which involve Wayne being sold for 30M to 35M:

1. The money is used to bring in quality players.  If this were to happen, then the board would be wise to pursue this course of action in one way, and one way only: keep the sale secret, whilst at the same time, putting in reasonable bids for the replacement players.  Otherwise, every single club from whom we are to purchase new players from will slap on a couple of extra million, because they know we have money to spend.  This way, we would be guaranteed of getting maximum value for money for whoever we purchased.  The only problem would be the reaction from most quarters i.e. "Wow! We've just signed Davis, Dawson, Cole, Adriano.. etc etc... but hold on.. where the hell is Rooney going?!".  This would be the ultimate gamble because, if the new acquisitions didn't pay off, then we'd be stuck with the debt, and a bunch of players who were still unable to get us into the top six.

2. The money would be used to completely wipe out the debt that has crippled us for so long.  There would be a good few million left over for some astute Moyes signings, for fees that wouldn't be too unreasonable, because the other clubs would know that we didn't have much cash left after clearing our debt; and God forbid if we were facing relegation, at least we wouldn't have the debt still hanging around to screw us up completely, and it would be a lot easier to rebuild the team.

Both paths are big gambles, but no more so than the gamble of holding on to Rooney in the vain hope that one person can lead us to glory.  He can't.  He's good, but one person just does not make a team.  And even if Wayne did magically make us get into the Champions' League all by himself, it would take about 6-7 years' worth of successful Champions' League campaigns to get all our debt cleared.

So what do you want to do? Gamble on success if he stays, or assure the future of the club if he goes?  Rooney is the best thing that has happened to us in living memory, but my love lies first and foremost with the club, and if the sale of one person can save my club, then so be it. Dan Roberts

His last column about Moyes might have generated some argument among our supporters, but Peter Fearon has just lost his 'controversial columnist' tag with this laughable piece about our Wayne!  I mean, seriously, even if we got 40M for him, the Board would probably take it in installments over 10 years and just use the money to pay off the debts!  That way, we'd be left with an old team robbed of its best player and no hope for the future.  The only way forward is to keep Wayne for at least another 4 years, building a squad around him and trying to generate enough revenue to move into a new stadium and become a force in the transfer market.  It wont be easy, but we can't do it without Wayne. Jonny Abbott


Please note: Just because we publish an article does not necessarily mean we agree with the views of the author Editorial policy

2004 ToffeeWeb


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