Club Focus – Everton – Derby drawn as Pienaar moves closer to the exit door

A weekend that saw Everton fall behind, lead and eventually draw the Merseyside derby while Steven Pienaar prepared for a move away has finally ended. A point from the game with Liverpool was deserved but the most pressing issue around Goodison Park is now the future of the South African midfielder, and how David Moyes can replace his mercurial talent.

With an offer for Pienaar from Chelsea accepted – although Sky Sports News originally reported last week the player had rejected the champions’ overtures – and talk of a pre-contract agreement with a major European name, Moyes is going to have to replace the No. 20 sooner or later. Against Liverpool Leon Osman started on the left wing but as Everton were more and more overrun in the first half, Victor Anichebe dropped from centre-forward to a wide midfield position, allowing Osman to become a third central midfielder, a position his quick feet and slow pace are far more suited to. Anichebe was eventually replaced by Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, a naturally left footed player who has astounded and frustrated in equal measure during his Everton career, scoring some scintillating goals but entering some dubious performances, and enjoyed his best spell last season on the right of Everton’s midfield. Everton can also call on young French winger Magaye Gueye, but the 20-year-old has yet to feature in the league despite some promising cup appearances.

The ranks within the club are somewhat slim, then, but if Moyes looks elsewhere to compensate for Pienaar’s departure he may find himself priced out of the market. Receiving a transfer fee for Pienaar may help – anywhere between £3m and £6m has been rumoured, mostly likely nearer the former than the latter – but in the awkward January window, when clubs are loathe to part with their best assets, Everton are unlikely to receive enough money to properly replace such an important player, particularly when there are other areas of the squad in more pressing need of attention. The departure of Yakubu has left Everton’s forward line even slimmer than before and the gap about to be left by Pienaar means two vital attacking roles need filling before the month’s end. Dieumerci Mbokani may join from Monaco until May to bolster Moyes’ strikers but accounting for Pienaar and his creativity will prove more difficult, and finding another Pienaar-like bargain – he was signed for £2m from Borussia Dortmund – may be impossible.

Everton have lost key players before, but Pienaar’s impending transfer resounding most with that of Thomas Gravesen, who left in January 2005 with six months remaining on his contract to join Real Madrid. Gravesen had helped Everton to Champions League contention before taking his last chance at an upper echelon club, leaving Merseyside with nothing but the best wishes. Pienaar, for all his impressive performances since joining Everton on loan in 2007, and for upholding his high standards while the uncertainty over his future continued, never complaining or shirking his responsibilities, should do likewise.

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