So David Moyes finally got his man. Steven Pienaar has returned to Everton in a £4.5m move from Tottenham Hotspur, signing in at Goodison Park on a permanent deal for the second time, and the fourth time altogether.
Pienaar’s five-year relationship with Everton has for the large part been positive. Even when he left for Tottenham in January 2011 there was little ill feeling. The move came six months before Pienaar’s contract was due to expire and, as time rolled on, it became increasingly clear the South African was not long for life on Merseyside.
Yet despite that, Pienaar’s performances never once waned. It could have been understood, if not accepted, had Pienaar cut a disinterested figure in the last few weeks of his first full-time spell with Everton. If his mind had been elsewhere – on thoughts of the Champions League, say, as both Spurs and Chelsea prepared approaches – Pienaar would not have been the first player nor the last to go through the motions with the knowledge his departure was imminent.
Pienaar, however, was the utmost professional. During that time, as Everton engaged in their usual early season slump, he was one of the few bright spots. It took Everton until October to register a first Premier League win, and that was in spite of Pienaar’s best efforts, rather than a lack of the same from the winger. If his teammates had matched his determination, not to mention skill, Everton would not have been waiting nearly so long for three points.
Matters were little better upon Pienaar’s return than when he left. Although Everton had just beaten eventual champions Manchester City on January 31, the final day of the 2012 winter transfer window, they were still dangling in mid-table mediocrity. They had lost more games than they had won and conceded more goals than they had scored. It was middle of the road form from a team desperately lacking inspiration.
Whether Pienaar was the sole catalyst for what followed is debateable. But unquestionable is the fact that his return coincided with Everton going on a run of games and performances rarely seen in the 10 years of Moyes’ leadership. Everton had scored 23 goals in 23 games when Pienaar was re-signed. By the end of the season, 15 games later they more than doubled their total to 50, from 38. Pienaar got four of those himself.
Everton then ended the season on a crest of good form and good feeling. Pienaar’s confirmed arrival should help that continue into the new campaign. Whether that translates into a winning start remains to be seen. Opposition does not get much more difficult in the opening game but that the fixture is on a Monday evening at a floodlit Goodison is a bonus.
Moyes’ transfer business may not be over for the summer, particularly if the vultures circling around Leighton Baines do eventually swoop, and the strong results between February and May should not paper over the cracks that still exist.
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