In English football the months of June and early July are normally characterised by speculation, supposition, discussion and endless ‘links’ in newspapers attempting to second guess how the transfer window may play out.
Yet, for the vast majority of clubs very little activity occurs during this period – players return to pre-season training and recruitment teams open negotiations with potential targets – the ‘big’ deals do not get agreed until much later in the summer.
Nonetheless, there is little doubt which Premier League club are leading the way in terms of their transfer business so far.
Everton have made a Usain Bolt-like exit from the starting blocks this summer and Ronald Koeman has wasted little time in overhauling his playing squad ahead of the new campaign. Whilst other clubs are busy reacclimatising after a month-long vacation and dithering or debating about possible transfer targets, The Toffees have made five major signings before the majority of their rivals have even returned for pre-season training.
It is a definitive statement and signals that the club now harbour much more lofty ambitions than a top-half finish in the Premier League.
New money, new ambitions
When it was announced that Iranian-born billionaire Farhad Moshiri was purchasing a sizeable chunk of Everton at the start of 2016 there was an air of caution and intrigue around the club.
For every Roman Abramovic that has used their financial weight to implement a drastic, positive transformation at a club there is a Vladimir Antonov (ask Portsmouth fans) or a Massimo Cellino (former Leeds United owner) that has caused relative chaos at others. There is never any certainty that new ownership and the promise of substantial investment will ever truly materialise.
However, Moshiri has certainly put his money where his mouth is and clearly has ambitions for the club to challenge for a place in Champions League.
Ronald Koeman has been handed the funds to begin a seismic shake-up of the Everton first team squad and has immediately invested in the spine of his team. Jordon Pickford arrived from Sunderland for £30,000,000 with Davy Klaasen (£24,000,000) and Michael Keane (a deal that could rise up to £30 million) forming a new defensive trio in the heart of The Toffees rear-guard.
In January central midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin was purchased for £24 million to add some steel in the centre of the pitch whilst earlier this week Everton triggered the £5 million release clause for high-rated Malaga striker Sandro Ramirez. 20-year-old Nigerian starlet Henry Onyekuru has also arrived but will be immediately sent out on loan.
The record levels of spending have been overseen by Everton’s Director of Football Steve Walsh who was appointed in July 2016. Walsh was a key figure in shaping the Leicester City team that shocked the football world two years ago by miraculously winning the Premier League, with the signings of N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy all accredited to his vision and scouting nous.
Despite over £110 million’s worth of signings already secured Everton’s spending does not look like subsiding any time soon. Koeman remains on the look-out for potential reinforcements, with the Romelu Lukaku’s departure looking inevitable, and the club have been heavily linked with Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Olivier Giroud in recent weeks.
A bright future
When Everton secured a 7th place finish in the Premier League last season, and in doing so qualified for the Europa League, Ronald Koeman appeared distinctly underwhelmed and less than content.
The Dutchman is highly ambitious, has little time for mediocrity, and is determined to reach the top of his profession – he wants the opportunity to prove himself at the pinnacle of the game.
Fortunately for The Toffees and their manager, Farhad Moshiri’s financial investment has given the club the chance to make a significant impact next season.
Everton have moved quickly in the transfer window and have signalled their intent to the other nineteen clubs in the Premier League. The Toffees are no longer content with being also-rans or finishing in mid-table, they are making a statement that they intend to challenge the established status quo and break into the top four.
Suddenly the club has the financial backing to compete with the so-called ‘big six’ and there is now a sense that they could potentially overtake not only their local rivals Liverpool, but also surpass the supplementary elite sides of English football.
The test now for Everton, Farhad Moshiri, Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh is to translate this collusion of investment, ambition and vision into on pitch success.
Featured image all rights reserved Serg Hoholok.