Whether its £35m or £40m, it’s a jaw-dropping amount of money but it's the price of trying to remain competitive at the top end of the Premier League, and in Richarlison, Everton have invested heavily in some excitingly raw potential.
Evertonians might not have expected to have to wait quite so long but the Toffees have finally made their first signing of the summer. Four days after reports broke that they were in talks with Watford over Brazilian forward Richarlison, the 21-year-old has been confirmed as the club’s newest player.
It’s the latest in a transfer window that Everton have made a first-team acquisition since 2011, the year that Mikel Arteta was sold to Arsenal and only Royston Drenthe and Denis Stracqualursi arrived just before the deadline that August, although circumstances are very different this time around.
With new manager, Marco Silva, and Director of Football, Marcel Brands, needing time to run the rule over the squad they inherited from Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce and Steve Walsh, plus the World Cup slowing the transfer merry-go-round for a month, it was, perhaps, inevitable that things would take this long to get going in the recruitment department at Finch Farm.
For those who remember that 30 years ago it cost Everton just £2.2m to sign the country’s most prolific goalscorer at the time in the form of Tony Cottee (the striker the club bought last year, Sandro, earns that in about three months at the moment!) the fee is just staggering.
Whether its £35m or £40m, it’s a jaw-dropping amount of money and no matter how mad the market gets, it’s hard to just shrug such massive figures off, particularly when you’re aware of their real-world value. It’s the price of trying to remain competitive at the top end of the Premier League, however, and in Richarlison, Everton have invested heavily in some excitingly raw potential.
They may also have buried in the terms of the deal a measure of financial compensation to Watford to finally settle the dispute between the two clubs over the Blues’ pursuit of Silva last November. It’s almost certain that this transaction will see the threat of legal action evaporate while Everton get a valuable acquisition to their squad for their considerable outlay.
The transfer fee may be rich but the Blues’ first new signing of the summer has the potential to be money very well spent. Unlike Sigurdsson, who was acquired for a similar fee but at the age of 28, he will have sell-on value should the need arise. In the meantime, Silva adds to his squad a potential match-winning asset who still has plenty of room to grow.
Both Milan clubs, Sampdoria, Manchester United and Chelsea were all credited with interest in signing Richarlison before Watford eventually did and his early form for the Hornets suggested that, in persuading him to swerve Ajax last summer, Silva had secured an uncut diamond.
Five goals in 12 games as Watford ascended to the lofty heights of fourth place in the early going last season hinted that, after eight managerial appointments in the space of about a decade, the Hertfordshire club might finally be going places under their promising young manager and his plumb signing.
Ordinarily, a player’s YouTube highlight reel ought to be viewed with a degree of scepticism but Premier League observers got to see Richarlison’s talents first-hand last year. Skillful, powerful and attack-minded, he turned heads in the early weeks of the campaign before both his form and that of the Watford team as a whole, fell off a cliff.
He wouldn’t score another goal for Watford after 19th November, the team would go on an 11-match run without a win, and Silva was sacked in January, to be replaced by Javi Gracia, a manager who has thus far generally failed to get much life out of the team he inherited.
There is no question that Richarlison failed to rediscover the spark that had made him such an exciting prospect just weeks earlier and, as such, a degree of caution is warranted. For a marquee transfer fee, you ideally want a bona fide marquee player. But there is obviously a case to be made for extenuating circumstances — the consequences of a young man playing his first season in a foreign country on the back of a full season in Brazil but in a Watford team that had lost its way and was, now, without the mentor who had brought him to England in the first place. Richarlison might end up being that "marquee" player after all.
It’s perhaps fitting that Silva and Richarlison are reunited at Goodison Park seeking their respective redemption at Everton where the platform to succeed should at least be higher than was the case at Vicarage Road. Certainly, Silva looks likely to be backed by a bigger war chest and there is the nucleus of a very good team there, even if it still needs further strengthening in key areas.
Richarlison is capable playing anywhere across the front three but he has been most effective in England thus far playing wide on the left. In that sense, he will add the attacking zeal of a Yannick Bolasie but promises much more reliable end product. It will also remove any temptation on the manager’s part of repeating the mistake of predecessors in deploying Gylfi Sigurdsson in that ill-suited role.
With Theo Walcott operating on the other flank, Cenk Tosun deployed down the middle and, assuming he stays, Ademola Lookman available as an exciting, dynamic, supplemental option off the bench, Everton might yet be able to compensate for the lack of a genuine play-making No 10 by simply boasting attacking prowess in other areas.
Some important positions still need to be addressed before the transfer window closes in a little over a fortnight’s time but, with their first move, Everton have made a very good, if belated, start to their summer recruitment business.