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View from the Blue
Columnist: Lyndon Lloyd

Best laid plans
29 June, 2005

Mikel Arteta: The club simply have to come to an agreement with the Spaniard
image ©

With the Blues' magnificent fourth-placed finish and wholly unexpected qualification for the Champions League, we came into the summer on a massive wave of optimism.  We felt like we had the world at our feet; the prospect of playing in Europe's elite competition coupled with having the Manager of the Year would be an irresistible draw for prospective players, and most of us expected that David Moyes's plan to have most of his targets signed and in place by the start of pre-season training would have resulted in a host of big-name signings by this stage of the summer.  The best laid plans of Moyes and men, you might ruefully say...

As July approaches, we can be forgiven, therefore, for feeling a little deflated that we have only two star players on board and that Moyes's decision to delay his squad strengthening from January to now so that he stood a better chance of landing his top targets has been frustrated by Everton's economic realities, not to mention sheer greed on the part of certain players.  His number one choice, Scott Parker, was injured during the January transfer window and then chose pound signs over the Champions League by signing for perennial "wannabes", Newcastle United; attempts to land Emre and Mikel Arteta have also stumbled over wage demands.

It is natural to feel disappointed that we have been beaten to the punch by lesser clubs simply because they are prepared to pay astronomical wages, but the club should be applauded for their fiscal conservatism.  The blunt fact is that Scott Parker was asking for £15k-a-week more than Everton were prepared to pay.  That's £3.9M over the lifetime of a five-year contract on top of the £10.4M that he would receive on a basic salary of £40k a week.  That's money that we simply cannot afford.  Newcastle, who wasted £60k a week on Patrick Kluivert, obviously feel they can, but I, for one, will sleep a little easier knowing that Everton haven't gambled their financial future on one relatively untried player.  The hard lesson learned by Leeds United is there for all to see.

We also have to hope that Moyes's desperation to bolster his small squad before the new season kicks off doesn't lead him to cave in to the demands of Craig Bellamy who wants either £50k a week from Everton or a pay-off from Newcastle to compensate for lost earnings if he accepts a pay-cut to play for the Blues.  Added to his bad reputation, his gall to demand that David Moyes outline all of his proposed signings before he'll sign confirms what almost every Evertonian I have come across feels: there is no place at Goodison Park for gobshites like him.  If ever a player went against the "no egos" ethos espoused by Lee Carsley earlier this summer, it's Craig Bellamy.

On the flip-side are the Arteta negotiations which seem to have stalled over personal terms.  The Spaniard is reportedly asking for £33k a week while Everton are only offering £25k, which would represent a pay-cut from his salary at Real Sociedad, and he also wants a longer-term deal than that which is on the table.  I would hope that the club have considered going up to their apparent £30k-a-week ceiling and, if it were up to me, I would offer him the length of contract he wants and get the deal done because let's not overlook the fact that we are getting a top-class midfielder on the right side of 25 years old for just £2.8M.  That is a bargain, so why not look increase the salary offer and offset it against the money saved from buying a £5M for almost half that?

If you live your life according to the rumour mill, Robbie Keane and Andrew Johnson are our other serious targets.  Both players would command hefty transfer fees but would more likely fit our wage structure.  Personally, I would take Keane over Johnson — and Bellamy for that matter — every day of the week.  He has bags of skill, scores goals and, unlike Johnson, has experience of playing at the very highest level.  Who knows if there is any substance in the speculation linking us with the Irishman, though.

What concerns me about Everton's transfer policy thus far under Moyes, though, is the propensity to go after well-established players who are commanding transfer fees in excess of £4M with few of our targets falling under the "lesser-known, much potential" category.  [I'm not including long-term, young prospects like John Ruddy here].  It doesn't speak well of the club's scouting network that we are waiting for players to reach their peak at other clubs — who often picked up that player for peanuts either from the lower divisions in England or on the Continent — and then having to shell out top dollar in fees and salaries.

Where, for example, is Everton's answer to Mikael Forssell, picked up originally by Chelsea for free?  Simon Davies joined Spurs from Peterborough United for £700,000.  We seem to have done fine nurturing home-grown product to sell on for massive fees but lose all the benefit by having to acquire new players at the height of their transfer value.

Walter Smith had a chequered transfer history during his time at Goodison Park, but the acquisition of Thomas Gravesen from Hamburg and Marco Materazzi from Perugia for just £2.5M apiece were two good pieces of business, even if the latter failed to adjust to life in the Premiership.  He acquired Olivier Dacourt for a £3M, which would have been another good deal had he not been such an arrogant so-and-so and had Smith's first season in charge not been so dismal.

Of course, that is not to say that Moyes hasn't had his successes in the transfer market — Kevin Kilbane (£1.1M), Nigel Martyn (500k), Tim Cahill (£2M) and Marcus Bent (450k) have all more than repaid the club's outlay on them — this is more an examination of Everton's broad transfer policy and the reach — or lack thereof — of its scouting network.  I find it hard to believe that there aren't uncut diamonds out there in Europe or overseas just waiting for an enterprising club to snatch them up and give them the Premiership stage on which to shine.

So, with the new season less than seven weeks away — and our first Champions League match even closer — we Blues have to dampen our increasing nerves with the old adage "In Moyes We Trust" and have faith that the manager will be able to pull a few irons out of the fire between now and the beginning of August.  Certainly, we are short of two first-class midfielders, need a prolific goalscorer, another central defender and a decent left-back of any description.

Still plenty of work to be done at a time when pre-season distractions come thick and fast...

Lyndon Lloyd

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