Cahill’s significance cannot be measured purely in goals, but it is the most tangible way to record what the No 17 has meant to Everton since arriving from Millwall in July 2004. In 229 appearances in Everton’s royal blue Cahill has netted 65 times, putting him as one of Everton’s top scorers from midfield in history – only the likes of 1980s legends Kevin Sheedy – a dead ball master – and Adrian Heath have scored more. This season, Cahill has been a rare bright spot for Everton in front of goal, his nine strikes being the difference between so far a season of mediocrity and genuine relegation trouble. Indeed, Cahill’s nine goals in 19 games would be an impressive ratio whatever the situation at Goodison Park. Cahill has never scored more than 12 goals in a season for Everton but with nine already, even with as much as a month spent elsewhere, the 31-year-old should at least match that total.
But Cahill means more than goals to Everton. Not only has he stepped into captain the side on numerous occasions, the Australian has come to symbolise much of what is good about Moyes’ Everton side. Watching the midfielder-cum-striker, whether he is wearing the captain’s armband or not, he feels every moment of injustice, disappointment or celebration as much as the supporters in the stands and cannot help letting whatever emotion he is feeling etching itself on to his face. Cahill, like Everton at their best, relishes taking on teams more glamorous or more vaunted and annulling their reputations with a great deal of grit and no little style. His aerial ability may take headlines with every headed goal scored but Cahill has a sure touch and quick feet, and is more than a combative midfield terrier – witness the spectacular overhead kick he scored at Stamford Bridge for evidence. A hearty mix of brains and brawn, Cahill represents what Moyes desires from his players.
Cahill was also a bargain buy, just £1.5m, and has repaid that small fee many times over since his first Everton goal in September 2004. Such an excellent piece of business is what Moyes and most other Premier League managers seek to replicate in every transfer window, and while Cahill may not be the original, he must surely rank amongst the best. But as every manager frustrated in the transfer market will agree, players of the calibre of Cahill are rarely available for such a pittance. In that respect, Everton are fortunate they only have to replace the formerly irreplaceable Cahill for a matter of weeks.