"We have to be ambitious but at the same time, we have to manage the situation. We maybe have some players that have to leave.”
"If they leave, it will give us more chances to approach other players and improve the squad."
"Everybody knows that this club has spent a lot of money in the last few years so that means that Financial Fair Play is there, so you have to respect the rules and you have to manage in the best way possible.”
"If you have players with big salaries that normally aren’t playing then you want to find a solution and this solution will mean you have money to spend on new players.”
Rafa Benitez: First Press Conference 14 July 2021
Rafa Benitez has held his first press conference as Everton manager. He mostly played safe and said what supporters would want to hear about competing and being competitive, which he repeated on a number of occasions. But the quotes above from the press conference are by far the most pertinent.
Benitez has in the press conference laid bare the failed largesse of the Moshiri years to date. The club are basically running close to Premier League Profit and Sustainability rules as well as Financial Fair Play rules, if we ever reach the chimera of European football again.
The idea we have another suitcase full of Moshiri dough to splash out on incoming transfers seems to be wishful thinking. When you consider that clubs are still recovering from the Covid pandemic, plus the massive and costly new stadium project at Bramley-Moore Dock, it seems to be more than just wishful thinking and more a flight of fantasy.
It would seem from Benitez's comments we have to move players out to bring in monies to fund any incoming transfers. But who will pay any sort of transfer fee for the likes of Bernard, Iwobi, Gomes, Sigurdsson etc? Not to mention the ridiculous wages they are picking up from Everton, which no club would match or even consider paying. So, with a load of substandard, not-fit-for-purpose players to move on, Marcel Brands finds himself in the same bind he has been in since he joined the Blues.
This being the case, it will fall to our few saleable assets to bring in any monies for incoming transfers. It would seem that the transfer of Moise Kean is an inevitable reality. He has never been happy at the club and never really been given a proper chance by either Marco Silva or Carlo Ancelotti. Moise Kean is one of the players who could demand a good transfer fee, although I personally would like to see him be given a chance by Benitez; it just depends on who blinks first Everton or PSG.
Yerry Mina seems to be the other player touted for sale. I think Mina has really progressed since his first arrival and is one of our best centre-backs. I would personally try and sell Michael Keane. It would definitely make sense to move on one of our plethora of centre-backs and probably two if Lewis Gibson goes to bring in money for the transfer kitty.
We can add James Rodriguez to our saleable assets, although I don’t think it will be for anything more than £10 million tops. From Benitez's comments at the press conference, it seems clear that Rodriguez won’t be an Everton player by the end of the transfer window. The club are in the world of sell to buy. With the new stadium
at Bramley-Moore Dock to be constructed and paid for; I also think this will be the case for a number of years to come.
In the press conference, Benitez on more than one occasion said he would be looking to improve the players we have at the club (good luck with that!), another clue that we won’t be getting a large influx of new blood through the Finch Farm gates. It would seem that he has taken the job with his eyes wide open about the financial constraints on the club. How long the very club-political Benitez will be able to stomach working under this financial reality is anyone’s guess.
He has on numerous occasions – Newcastle and Valencia spring to mind – played political games to try and get more financial backing for players. If he is still here for the 2022-23 season, I would think he will want to be backed substantially more in the transfer market than seems to be the case for the coming season, or his political games will probably start.
Which brings me to the second part of this article: the Academy. If, as seems to be the case, the club will be financially stretched in the coming seasons, then the role the Academy has to play is more vital than ever. Can we produce one or two gems in the coming seasons instead of buying players?
With the present academy structure and personnel, I think this would be a leap into insanity to think we can. The myth of the Everton Academy and the Everton Way is incredibly fanciful and downright preposterous, no matter what nonsense the clubs’ ambassadors and Blues like Leon Osman (the latest one), spout about "The Everton Way" and the "Everton DNA". (The only Everton DNA sin,e 1995 has been… let’s not go there!)
Since David Unsworth became Under-23s Manager and now Head of Academy (what’s he doing still managing the U23s when he should be concentrating on his role of overseer of the whole Academy?), the club has produced Tom Davies, that’s it. Calvert-Lewin and Mason Holgate were poached from Sheffield United and Barnsley. Nothing wrong with that, actually good business practice, but where are the players coming through since Tom Davies and the acquisition of Calvert-Lewin and Holgate? Answer: there are none.
Maybe Anthony Gordon will make a breakthrough; this season is his one chance, but I’m not hopeful about him myself. Even more pertinent, where are the players we can produce and sell on for a profit if they don’t make it with the Blues? Again, there are none. The best Rhino has produced are Kieran Dowell and Antonee Robinson who we have sold for a couple of million each. Not exactly a profit-making machine.
Under Unsworth, players who will never make it at Everton are also held on to for too long, which is both detrimental to the club and the players' careers. We either send them out on dead-end loans or keep them playing for the U23s such as we did last season we did with Ouzounidis and Broadhead – Why did he get a new deal?
All this achieves is it blocks the pathway for younger promising players. The club does have a number of promising younger players who will get more game time with the U-23s this season: Welch, Whitaker, Leban, for example, but do we really think Unsworth and Co will progress them? I doubt it. But if they won him a league title, he would be happy!!
So, we have a transfer window where it will be mainly players leaving to fund incoming transfers. The warning shot about our financial position was given by Benitez himself at his press conference. This may well be, and I think will be, the reality for a number of seasons to come.
If this is the financial reality facing the blues, then it is imperative that Brands and Benitez take a good look at the academy and try and get it fit for purpose. This is now a vital necessity, which Brands should have addressed the moment he walked into the club. Instead, he has given more power to one of the main impediments to a functioning academy in David Unsworth, instead of removing him and the good Old Blue Boy network beneath him.
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