Club Focus – Everton – Toffees’ transfer trouble summed up by Bent’s Villa move

Everton’s pursuit of a new centre-forward was put into perspective this week by Aston Villa’s £18m bid for Sunderland striker Darren Bent. With proven Premier League goal scorers possessing mediocre international records commanding such astronomical fees, it is little wonder David Moyes has struggled to bolster his strike force in the January transfer window, and the £3m the Toffees are about to receive for Steven Pienaar from Tottenham Hotspur is unlikely to make much difference to Moyes’ barren war chest.

Pienaar himself is emblematic of Everton’s transfer strategy. A relative paucity of funds means Moyes has to gamble on players out of favour at their current club or playing in the lower leagues, with the occasional big-money buy financed by a big-money departure. Pienaar came to Goodison Park in 2007 after just 25 games for Borussia Dortmund and joins Mikel Arteta, Tim Howard, Phil Neville and Louis Saha as members of the current squad who moved to Merseyside in search of regular football bought at a cut price. Tim Cahill and Jermaine Beckford moved up from the Football League while Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines had just three seasons in the Premier League between them before coming to Everton. Home grown players Tony Hibbert, Jack Rodwell, Leon Osman, James Vaughn and Victor Anichebe play alongside a handful of free transfers or youngsters the club signed for little, including Seamus Coleman. That leaves just Marouane Fellaini, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, John Heitinga and Sylvain Distin as purchases of varying expense, each of whom was paid for by letting one or more players leave first.

Given the sell-to-buy approach Everton have been forced into, partly by the low levels of income that a matchday at Goodison generates, partly by the lack of an investor, Moyes’ refusal to sell Pienaar last summer was a brave stance. Selling Pienaar with a year left on his contract would have brought in at least twice what Spurs are willing to pay today, pushing Everton closer to affording a replacement or providing money to spend on other areas of the team. It was a calculated gamble by Moyes, believing that whatever he received for Pienaar would not have been enough to compensate for the loss of the player or allow him to boost his ranks elsewhere. But now as the South African is about to depart with Moyes still unlikely to afford an adequate replacement or a reliable striker, Everton are left doubly disappointed. Rumours have circled of potential incomings, from Monaco’s Dieumerci Mbokani at centre-forward to Chris Eagles of Burnley in midfield, but neither name is likely to send pulses racing once Pienaar is paraded in the colours of his new club.

But that is the world in which Everton operate, where Aston Villa’s rich American owner can pay Sunderland’s rich American owner nearly £20m for a striker with seven England caps and one goal. Moyes has shown he is a shrewd operator in such an environment, but it must be asked how much longer he can scrimp and save to keep Everton afloat.

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