Club Focus – Everton – Toffees’ accounts paint mixed picture with Fellaini contract talks due

Everton released their financial accounts for 2009/10 this week, and while the situation the Goodison Park club faces could be a lot better, it could also be a lot worse.

The Toffees were described as “walking the tightrope of good financial management” by chief executive Robert Elstone after the club’s books revealed an increased but manageable debt for the period between June 1 2009 and May 2010 of £44.9m, up from £37.9m the year previously. Operating costs also increased, from £73.4m to £79.6m, while turnover fell from £79.7m to £79.1m. Perhaps the most telling set of figures, however, at least when Everton’s long-term transfer strategy is considered, is wages, up by more than £5m to £54.3m. Everton have focused their resources into keeping the players already at the club and tying them down to long-term, lucrative deals – the increased wage budget revealed by the accounts includes new contracts for Tim Howard, Louis Saha, Jack Rodwell, Joseph Yobo and Phil Jagielka. Next year’s accounts will tell a similar story, when new deals for Mikel Arteta (a record-breaking £75,000 a week), Rodwell (a second new contract signed last summer), Seamus Coleman, Tim Cahill and Victor Anichebe are considered.

With a trading loss of £500,000 Everton’s transfer budget is somewhere between wafer thin and non-existent, made painfully clear throughout January’s transfer window and underscored by the hard data. The only significant investment in the playing squad of recent times has come after a player has been sold first – the unsettled Joleon Lescott during the time period covered by the accounts – and the £19m profit made on the England defender was re-invested on John Heitinga, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Sylvain Distin. Before that, the sales of Andy Johnson and James McFadden provided the funds to sign Saha and Marouane Fellaini. Elstone was accurate to say in the Liverpool Echo that the club had no need to sell the in-demand Fellaini or Rodwell to safeguard the club’s future, but no mention was made of the possibility one of the pair could be sold to raise transfer funds. That is not to say it will happen, or would be popular with the manager, but it is currently the only way Everton can generate a substantial transfer kitty.

Fellaini is a name that will be consistently on the lips of Everton fans for the foreseeable future, and not just due to his superlative performances on the field. The Belgian will have two years remaining on his contract when the season draws to an end and to avoid a repeat of the Steven Pienaar debacle, contract negotiations need to begin and ideally conclude between May and August. But the bumper contract awarded to Arteta poses a conundrum. Fellaini’s performances have dwarfed those of his Spanish teammate this season and the 23-year-old, having grown steadily in importance throughout his Everton career, can reasonably expect a pay rise to match his status. If one is not forthcoming, and a new contract is not signed, Everton will be left with a dilemma – hold on to Fellaini while his contract expires and his price tag runs down, or sell their star midfielder early in return for upwards of £20m to invest elsewhere?

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