Denis Stracqualursi’s first Everton goal was the highlight of the Toffees’ FA Cup victory over Fulham on Friday evening, with the burly Argentine levelling the scores following Danny Murphy’s penalty. Marouane Fellaini added the decisive second but it was Stracqualursi who took most of the plaudits for a performance of the greatest heart possible.
That in itself is a sad indictment of Bilyaletdinov’s Everton tenure. While there have been occasional highlights, mostly in the form of stunning goals, they have arrived far too seldom, and in between the goal of the season contenders was a player who never adapted to the pace of English football and one who, after making an error, would shrink into his shell. More mistakes would inevitably follow.
Contrast Bilyaletdinov to Stracqualursi and it is not a pretty picture for the former. As signings they could not have been more different – one a big-money buy, in the region of £9m, the other a transfer deadline day loan gamble. But the differences did not end there. Aside from the obvious positional discrepancies – Bilyaletdinov an attacking midfielder, Stracqualursi a target man striker – their respective attitudes on the pitch could not have been more dissimilar. Bilyaletdinov, through his Everton career, was a player with clear ability let down by a perceived lack of effort and inability to shake off mistakes. Stracqualursi is a much less refined footballer but accounts for his deficiencies with a staggering work ethic, and his head never drops.
Indeed, against Fulham, Stracqualursi chased every clearance, battled for every header, and took all the lumps the visitors’ centre-back partnership could dish out. A goal was his reward, and the clear joy on Stracqualursi’s face in celebration was matched by his teammates and much of the crowd. The Stracqualursis, who run themselves into the ground in the cause of Everton, become cult heroes. The Bilyaletdinovs, who never match their talent with application, are not mourned when they depart. And Everton, on the precipice of a relegation battle, currently need more Stracqualursis than Bilyaletdinovs.
The Stracqualursi battering ram will carry through to Manchester City on Tuesday, when the Premier League leaders visit Goodison Park. There could not be a more stark distinction between the two sides off the pitch, as the paupers of Everton host the privileged City. Tuesday is also transfer deadline day, and Moyes may have an extra player or two at his disposal by then.
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