It must be infuriating to have such noisy and fortunate neighbours. Sitting in your pretty little bungalow, you open the curtains every morning, only to be faced by a billionaire’s mansion across the road, casting a great shadow over your entire garden.
Desperate to one-up this rude and thoughtless pest, you extend your petite cottage wider and wider, building ten extra living rooms and three kitchens. But at the end of the day, it’s still a bungalow. And with all the lavish gadgets in the newly-decorated cinema room, you’ve forgotten to fit a bathroom.
On a completely unrelated note, Everton are fixing their own problems by once again signing an expensive, ageing, creative midfielder on massive wages, who has hardly played any football in recent years.
James Rodriguez, once considered the golden boy of our sport following his brilliant displays at the 2014 World Cup, has probably spent the past six years wondering which was his first mistake in a list of wrong turns and career cul-de-sacs.
Joining Real Madrid would almost definitely be top of the pile. The Colombian attacking midfielder made only eight fleeting appearances for los Blancos last season, after coach Zinedine Zidane had actively tried to sell him in the previous window.
It looks as though the Frenchman will finally have his wish, and the 29-year-old – having wasted the prime years of his career – is on his way out of Santiago Bernabeu for the final time. But which club would be mad enough to stump up a huge transfer fee and hefty wages for a man who is still living off five outstanding performances he made six years ago?
Unfortunately for the Toffees, there’s only one correct answer to that dreaded question.
Everton have found themselves being constantly associated with average players who are unwanted at top clubs, and whether that’s a harsh assessment or not, it’s easy to see why. A look back at their business over the past four years makes for very stark reading.
The Merseysiders spent £77m in 2016/17, with £26m and £20m being accredited to the signings of Yannick Bolasie and Morgan Schneiderlin respectively. Bolasie’s injury problems have stopped him from making more than a handful of appearances over the past four years, while Schneiderlin was recently sold for £2m. That’s a big loss.
One year later, and keen to avoid the mistakes of the previous season, the Toffees blew £180m on the likes of Jordan Pickford, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen, Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun.
Pickford is now performing at a level far below his £30m price tag, Walcott, Keane and Sigurdsson have hardly pulled up any trees, while Tosun and Klaassen were both disasters. A slightly more successful summer followed, with the arrival of Richarlison, Yerry Mina and Lucas Digne, but expenditures still hit around £80m.
Finally, a further £100m left the Goodison pockets in 2019, as Moise Kean, Alex Iwobi (£35m!!!) Andre Gomes and Jean-Philippe Gbamin were all confirmed. I cannot stress this enough. Alex Iwobi for £35m.
A bit of quick maths puts their total spend north of a sickening £450m since 2016. For that incredible investment, the only returns we’ve seen are disappointing league table finishes and humiliations at the hands of their non-stop partying neighbours Liverpool – who’ve spent almost exactly the same amount in that space of time.
So, how have Everton got it so wrong? They’ve hired an elite manager with incredible pedigree, and they’re parting with cash like they’re on a stag do in Las Vegas. Well, it appears that they are benefitting from a similar amount of planning as that of a stag do, too.
Overloaded in certain areas (looking at you, wingers), and lacking a genuine goalscorer, this team is bereft of goals and ideas. The gambles on the likes of Kean, Tosun, Bolasie, Iwobi and Walcott to score and provide have backfired, and it’s left Carlo Ancelotti with a very bloated and unbalanced squad.
Defensively, they aren’t much better, in fairness. Pickford is suffering possibly the worst form of his career, Keane has never really looked the same player he was in that pragmatic, solid Burnley backline, and Mina’s signing was one of the very few examples of actual good business – from Barcelona, of course.
Typically, the only signs of life have come from their cheaper additions. Mason Holgate, Jarrad Branthwaite and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have all offered a crumb of hope to Everton fans this season, and their presence harks back to the days of snatching bargains like Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines, Tim Cahill and Phil Jagielka. The cornerstones of the Toffees in the Premier League era.
Everton built themselves up on their smart business in the transfer market, scouting the lower leagues and taking educated risks on hungry, promising talents, and for a long time, that plan was flawless. This sudden lunge into spending freely and trying to financially compete with the top teams is only setting such a wonderful club back in its progress, and causing the Merseysiders to lose sight of what made them so likeable.
And so, the possible signing of Rodriguez must be ringing alarm bells in the mind of every Everton supporter. The Madrid star is an exciting prospect, but he’s not what Everton need. It’s time to break this cycle and get sensible, guys.