David Moyes’ advice for Steven Pienaar – that players who leave Everton do not go on to better things – may not convince the South African to stay on Merseyside as much as a bumper new contract but the midfielder would be wise to heed his manager’s words.
Numerous players have come and gone during Moyes’ eight-year tenure at Goodison Park – there have been 155 transfers in and out of Everton since summer 2002, including loans from other clubs ending, successful loans being made permanent and young players who never reached the first team moving on. Of those 155, 61 moves were incoming – leaving 94 who departed for pastures new. There are some big names in that group – Wayne Rooney, Joleon Lescott and James McFadden in particular – but how many of that near-century found improved fortunes in their new surroundings is open to debate. Certainly, Rooney’s move to Manchester United gave him access to trophies he would not have won with Everton, while Lescott may follow in Rooney’s footsteps on the other side of Manchester – although Lescott was signed by Roberto Mancini’s predecessor Mark Hughes, and with the Italian looking to put his own stamp on the team this summer, the England international could be on the move again. McFadden found regular football at Birmingham City but had to endure a year in the Championship before the Blues established themselves in the Premier League this season. The others mostly sank into mediocrity once they left Merseyside.
Pienaar – a sublime player without doubt – is not on Rooney’s level but is above that of McFadden, and has been linked to some of the biggest names in Europe – Bayern Munich in particular are a club strongly linked with Everton’s No 20, partially due to Pienaar’s experience of playing in Germany with Borussia Dortmund – he would likely be asked to replace Franck Ribery in Bavaria, once the Frenchman departs in the summer. They are some mighty big shoes to fill and Pienaar’s chances of success should he leave Everton rest greatly on which of his many suitors clinch his signature. Tottenham Hotspur are one of his biggest admirers – but quite how Pienaar would fit into Harry Redknapp’s squad with Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Niko Kranjcar already fighting for a left midfield spot has so far gone unanswered. Everton and Spurs are similarly-sized clubs – although Spurs’ possible Champions League participation next season would just inch them ahead of the Toffees – while Chelsea may make a bid – especially if Joe Cole leaves – but Pienaar would not be guaranteed regular football at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool are also rumoured to be interested in a move that would cause even more unrest than Nick Barmby’s 2000 trip across Stanley Park, but Pienaar would add an extra dimension to the Reds – if they could afford him, that is.
Just over 12 months ago it was the future of Joleon Lescott that was up in the air, with rumours continually surfacing of interest from Manchester City. The centre-back was eventually allowed to leave for Eastlands after City offered in the region of £24m – a good £9m more than Lescott was really worth – and, ordinarily, it would take a similarly-outrageous fee to prise Pienaar away from Goodison. With only a year left on Pienaar’s contract, no club is going to offer silly money to sign the 28-year-old – indeed, with his deal running down his valuation drops in kind as clubs prepare to wait out the year until he can leave as a free agent if no new contract is agreed. Every summer, the Everton board scrimp and save to provide Moyes with the funds to compete at a top six level and the sale of Lescott allowed the Blues to sign a number of players – in the week after Lescott’s move to the City of Manchester Stadium was confirmed, Everton duly spent around £20m on three players – Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Sylvain Distin and John Heitinga – their first purchases of 2009. There is no such benefit to selling Pienaar now, however, as with such a short period of time remaining on his contract the incoming money would not allow Moyes to strengthen the team significantly.
It appears Pienaar is willing to extend his contract at Everton but the Everton board must be careful not to disrupt the harmony at the club. Paying Pienaar significantly more than other important members of the team – such as Mikel Arteta – would either cause upset in the camp or financial imbalance as every player was brought to Pienaar’s level. Questions should be asked as to why Pienaar’s contractual situation was not addressed last summer, when time was less of a factor, but the popular midfielder – as well as Jack Rodwell, another player Everton may have to fight to retain – should realise the grass is not always greener away from Goodison’s hallowed turf.