Everton risk wasting both their secret weapon and Stones jackpot
As impressively as Everton did to convince Ronald Koeman to turn his back on Southampton, where he was able to finish seventh and sixth, to join a club who have spent successive seasons stuck in the bottom half, the Dutchman wasn’t their star summer acquisition.
That billing should be bestowed upon new director of football Steve Walsh, whose shrewd eye for signings was a key ingredient of Leicester’s extraordinary 2015-16 Premier League title triumph.
The former Foxes scout and assistant manager was credited with being the instigator of the moves for Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante, their three leading on-field protagonists, so selling someone so highly regarded on the project at Goodison Park was an almighty coup.
It is debatable whether the Toffees are maximising his qualities in this window though. Firstly, they didn’t confirm the appointment until July 21, over two months after the final Premier League fixture of the previous campaign and five weeks on from Koeman’s unveiling.
Yet the greater concern is the list of players that they have signed so far – Maarten Stekelenburg, Ashley Williams and Idrissa Gueye – and those they have pursued or are currently chasing – Marko Arnautovic, Yannick Bolasie, Wilfried Bony and Lamine Kone.
None of them are bad footballers, but the majority are overpriced and, crucially, they don’t show any degree of imagination.
All of them are proven Premier League commodities who most onlookers are aware of. In other words, you don’t need to hire one of the best talent spotters in the business to find out that Williams is a decent defender.
Walsh’s talent isn’t in stating the obvious, but in finding talent overseas or in the lower leagues that have either gone ignored or unexposed, as demonstrated by his three finest Leicester discoveries.
Kante cost a reported £5.6m from Caen, being snapped up after one Ligue 1 season, and was sold on this summer for just under six times that. Mahrez never even got to that level, being pinched for Ligue 2 side Le Havre for an outrageous £400k and going on to become PFA Player of the Year.
The Vardy story is of course everywhere and perceived to be worthy of Hollywood, with the Foxes spending £1m to land him from Fleetwood Town after a prolific campaign in the fifth tier.
Perhaps Walsh has been briefed not to worry about this window and to focus his energy on finding performers of the Kante-Mahrez-Vardy profile to target in the year ahead.
However, it still seems wrong that the club possessing a guy who picked out those three players for a combined £7m are about to sanction an outlay of almost four times that on Bolasie alone, and a waste of the magnificent £47.5m that they recently milked Man City for in relinquishing John Stones.
If you think that Everton’s approach will prove effective though, you can find odds of 12/1 on them finishing in the top four.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.