Had Morgan Schneiderlin left Goodison last summer, few would have been surprised or, it’s fair to say, even been that concerned. Fast forward a year and the Frenchman has undergone quite the revival in form and favour.
By the tail end of last season, a tumultuous campaign that saw a once-promising managerial tenure come to an abrupt but merciful end and an altogether less palatable one ushered in in its place, few players had a lower stock among Evertonians than Morgan Schneiderlin.
The fact that boos rang out around Goodison Park in February last year when then-boss Sam Allardyce brought the Frenchman on as a substitute in a game against Crystal Palace was as damning as it gets and, at the time, it was hard to see a way back for a player who had once been hailed as Everton's midfield “Rolls Royce”.
As was noted on these pages at the time, Schneiderlin had “come to exemplify the lack of desire, discipline and application that has undermined this most disappointing of seasons”. Sent off in Lyon as Everton's Europa League campaign continued its collapse, he attracted further criticism for an apparent lack of effort in Premier League games that fuelled a growing resentment among Evertonians at one of the club's highest earners.
Schneiderlin's involvement in a training ground incident soon afterwards, in which interim head coach David Unsworth ordered he and Kevin Mirallas to leave training because of a lack of focus and commitment, seemed to indicate that he had downed tools.
Recently married to his wife, Camille, and on a fat salary at Goodison Park it seemed that even in a World Cup year, his focus was elsewhere and that there was precious little motivation for him to up his game when Everton had really needed him.
Had he left Goodison last summer, few would have been surprised or, it's fair to say, even been that concerned but one would assume that new manager Marco Silva either trusted him enough by reputation to keep him around or had faith in his own ability to get him back to the best so that he and Marcel Brands avoided having to fill one more pressing recruitment need.
Fast forward a year and Schneiderlin has undergone quite the renaissance with a run of form over the final few weeks of this season that was as good as anything he produced when he first arrived. Largely demoted in the pecking order, first by Tom Davies and then by the form of loan signing André Gomes and distracted briefly by the loss of his father towards the end of 2018, the former Southampton and Manchester United player gradually worked his way back into contention, to the point that when Gomes was injured or suspended in the latter weeks of the campaign, it was Schneiderlin to whom Silva turned to fill the void.
Perhaps it was his opportunity for reflection after losing his father or the fact that he welcomed a son of his own, Schneiderlin has been a rejuvenated presence in the Blues' side and it could leave Everton with a dilemma this summer.
On the one hand, at the age of 30, mid-way through his contract and having re-found his form, Schneiderlin is at peak value in terms of Brands's desire to bring down the average age of the squad. His wages could prove to be a stumbling block for most clubs outside of the Premier League — that might explain why a move back to France didn't materialise last year — but he could be a valuable addition for another top-flight English side and a boon to Blues' transfer kitty.
On the other, given the revival in his form, he could provide a valuable, stable and experienced option in Everton's squad for the next couple of seasons, particularly if Gomes isn't persuaded to stay with the Blues on a permanent basis. Schneiderlin has been in England for 11 years now and his family is settled; as such, he might not favour a move abroad unless it was to somewhere glamourous like Italy or Spain but even then he might prefer continuity and familiarity for his young family over one more move.
The pleasing thing is that whatever the decision is by player, club or both, the outcome should be a positive for Everton and you wouldn't have been able to say that last summer. The turnaround in Schneiderlin's performances may have been surprising but he deserves full credit. He will also get the support from the Blue faithful because there's always a way back if you're prepared to give it all for the shirt.