A tricky set-piece specialist commanding a fee close to £50m, a homegrown £100k a week winger who engineered a World Cup ticket at 17, and a £28m signing newly arrived from North London’s once-invincible side.
It sounds like the make-up of an impressive Champions League squad. Possibly a trio to rival talent at the Premier League’s best?
In fact, the aforementioned trio do not play in Europe, nor are they competing for Champions League places in the league.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, a £44m acquisition in Merseyside blue, hasn’t yet, and is unlikely to have the impact that his transfer fee suggests he should. 31-year-old Theo Walcott, on £100k a week, has registered one solitary goal and two assists, in 26 appearances this season. Former Arsenal man, Alex Iwobi, has mustered just the one Premier League goal since joining Everton in the summer of 2019.
Vast amounts of money has poured into Goodison Park since Moshiri, an Iranian businessman with a net worth of £2.4billion, stepped into the fold; £350m, to be exact.
Selling his holding in Arsenal set Moshiri up for an initial 49.9% takeover of Everton in February 2016. Today, Moshiri’s holding stands at 77.2%. This was news which had supporters brimming with the belief that big signings and European football was just around the corner.
Supporters would have been right about one thing; there were many big signings. However, European football has never looked close. The Premier League’s top six have looked streets ahead in quality and highly unlikely to be budged by Moshiri’s Everton.
Moshiri has done what anyone affiliated with the club would have wanted from him. He has pumped a seismic amount of finances into the club as promised, shown passion and desire to make the project a successful one, and made difficult and costly managerial decisions when needed. This is without any mentioning of the current proposals for Everton’s new 52,000 seater stadium in Liverpool’s Bramley-Moore docks.
Unfortunately, Moshiri cannot do it all. Although clearly a man invested heavily in the sport, he doesn’t necessarily have the attributes to pinpoint and recruit talent to tick the boxes which he is striving. He wants European football at Everton, and fast.
With that goal in mind, Moshiri got to work. With his seat in the boardroom barely warm, Roberto Martinez was replaced with Southampton’s Ronald Koeman, in May 2016.
A managerial change in the first few months in charge set a marker of intent, especially considering Martinez received a £10m farewell package following his sacking. Alongside Martinez’s payoff, Koeman’s Southampton required £5m in compensation for losing a manager who had worked wonders on the south coast. A £6m a year contract was agreed with the Dutchman, and that signalled the beginning of Moshiri’s millions and his march towards the promised land of Champions League football.
In July 2016, a month on from Koeman’s arrival, Moshiri went after Steve Walsh. The Champions of England, Leicester City, accepted an offer from Merseyside for their head of recruitment. As Walsh’s signings were integral to a Premier League triumph, Moshiri’s Everton had hoped to replicate similar shrewd business. N’golo Kanté, Jamie Vardy, and Riyad Mahrez showcased Walsh’s successes at Leicester. Monchi of Sevilla was always going to be a coup for Moshiri if he could convince him to leave Spain, but he couldn’t, leaving Walsh as a willing backup.
Koeman and Walsh’s activity in the transfer market oversaw significant changes in their first season. Three notable departures in £50m rated John Stones, to Manchester City, a vacating Tim Howard, who went to Colorado Rapids on a free, and Leon Osman, who hung up his boots.
In the other direction, Moshiri sanctioned the transfers of Idrissa Gueye – £7.65m, Ashley Williams – £12.6m, Bolasie – £26.1m, Calvert Lewin – £1.62m, and Morgan Schneiderlin – £20.7m, to name but a few.
Fast forward one year following a 7th placed Premier League finish, and a poor selection of incoming transfers, bar Idrissa Gueye, who was more than impressive. Just like Stones the previous summer, Moshiri’s Toffees commanded a big fee for want-away star striker, Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian left for Manchester United ahead of the 2017/18 term, with £75m the price to convince Moshiri to sell up, a hefty fee that would be invested straight back into Moshiri’s playing staff, along with the £15m for new Chelsea man, Ross Barkley.
The capital raised from the outgoings was burning a hole in Moshiri’s pocket; Theo Walcott – £20.25m, Gylfi Sigurdsson – £44.46m, Cenk Tosun – £20.25m, Sandro Ramirez – £5.2m, Michael Keane – £25.65m, Daavy Klaassen – £24.3m, Jordan Pickford £25.65m, Wayne Rooney – loan, and Nikola Vlasic – £9.72m.
Moshiri would spend £182.88m on talent in 2017/18, with a net-spend of £69.14m. Out of the transfers this season, the majority would be deemed a failure.
Two months into the season, Koeman’s tenure was axed short, after 16 months in the Everton dugout. The three transfer windows under his stewardship, and a slow start to the season, was enough to budge the axe towards the chopping block.
Sam Allardyce was the man brought in to replace the Dutchman. The art of steadying the ship had waltzed into Goodison Park eager for a challenge.
Wayne Rooney proved more than a sentimental purchase as he impressed under Allardyce in his second spell at Everton. While Jordan Pickford currently runs out as England’s number one, that is expected to change with Nick Pope and Dean Henderson turning heads. Pickford has his moments of uncertainty, and consistently makes mistakes which doesn’t aid a shaky back-line in preventing goals. Some may argue that his fee represents reasonable business for a young England international goalkeeper; nevertheless, having Pickford between the sticks doesn’t exactly breed confidence.
The other incomings in the same transfer window have struggled to live up to the hype, particularly Sigurdsson at a smidge under £45m. Daavy Klaasen also flattered to deceive as his £24.3m fee is arguably the most wasteful of an uninspiring bunch.
A transfer window like the one in the summer of the 2017/18 season will leave a sour taste in the mouth of an owner. Well over £100m in hard-earned money spent on talent who exhibited a severe lack of just that.
Steve Walsh found himself next in line at the job-centre after a poor season for Everton. The current squad was littered with expensive flops who were now lounging around the Goodison dressing room, serving as bleak reminders of Walsh’s transfer dealings.
The former Leicester man can boast landing Calvert-Lewin and Gueye for a combined fee of less than £10m. But unfortunately for Walsh, the pricey deals that didn’t work out outweighed Paris Saint Germain’s Gueye and a Calvert-Lewin who was years away from consistently featuring for the first team.
Allardyce steadied the ship as expected. The Goodison Park faithful didn’t appreciate the football on display and wanted to see the back of him, as expected. Moshiri went sniffing around Marco Silva like he had done in the recent past, as expected. Allardyce had signed an 18-month contract with Moshiri, and in the most expected of outcomes, he only lasted six months of it. Allardyce was paid off, like Koeman and Martinez before him, prior to the Portuguese manager’s impending arrival.
The former-Watford boss followed Steve Walsh’s replacement in the door. PSV Eindhoven’s Marcel Brands had agreed to take up the post after his PSV side had impressed for a number of seasons in the Netherlands, fighting off Ajax for the title three years on the bounce.
“It is only a challenge such as this which could have persuaded me to leave PSV where I am indebted to the many people whose collective effort led to some great achievements,” Brands explained.
“Now we will look to build something really strong and lasting here at Everton.”
Silva and Brands were tasked with bringing a footballing revolution to Everton. However, the advice that Brands and Everton chairman, Bill Kenwright, offered to Moshiri was that Silva had not shown the necessary qualities to fulfil the vacant managerial post.
Silva attracted suitors while at his first role in the Premier League, as his Hull City side battled against relegation. But in the end, relegated they were, and Watford came calling shortly afterwards. Although his teams showcased a type of football that was easy on the eye, The Hornets relinquished Silva of his duties in the January before he moved north to Liverpool.
Question marks were surrounding the appointment amongst Everton officials. However, it was ultimately Moshiri’s decision to make. Moshiri went against those advising him otherwise, and his mind was made up. He wanted his man. Everton’s head-honcho made it happen in June 2018, and subsequently backed him, in his and Brands’ debut summer transfer window.
Richarlison – £40m, Lucas Digne £18m, and Yerry Mina – £27m, with Kurt Zouma and Andre Gomes coming in on loan. An improved transfer haul for the club; Digne was an astute purchase at £18m and has been one of the shining lights of Moshiri’s reign, as has Richarlison. For me, the jury is out on Mina, especially at £27m.
Silva, just like Allardyce before him, finished 8th in the Premier League in the 2018/19 season, albeit with five more points. The football was stylistically better than big Sam’s, but Silva’s Everton would need to improve next year to keep the owner happy.
To ensure a successful ascent up the table, Brands and Silva brainstormed, and came up with the following; Alex Iwobi – £28m (rising to £34m), Moise Keane – £25m, Andre Gomes -£28m, Fabian Delph – £8.5m, Gbamin – £23m, Sidibe – 2.25m loan, and Lossl on a free.
It’s difficult to look at these incomings and muster a positive outlook. Gbamin’s arrival was a welcome one as Everton hoped to replace Idrissa Gueye. Unfortunately, the former Mainz midfielder has only featured twice for Everton, before being sidelined with a nasty thigh injury.
Iwobi’s arrival was announced hours after the summer transfer window had passed, suggesting negotiations were rushed. The former Arsenal winger feels like a panic buy after seeing Nicolas Pepe sign for Arsenal and offer the Nigerian some additional competition.
Brands’ position at the club and his say on recruitment has to be questioned, as Walsh was before him. Some of his buys may need time to bed into the club and the Premier League, but if Moshiri is to judge him on recruitment today, he would see it as a worrying trend. Maybe Silva and Brands had missed out on a handful of targets last summer, and perhaps that affected Everton at the start of the season.
Come December, Silva’s Everton were struggling. The midweek 5-2 defeat to their fierce crosstown rivals was the final nail in Silva’s coffin. Everton were in the relegation zone with Christmas approaching, and Moshiri viewed that he had to take action.
In Silva’s 60 games as Everton boss, he lead his side to 24 wins and 24 losses; hardly the return Moshiri expected of him. Silva’s poor win percentage of 35.9% is less than Allardyce – 37.5%, Koeman – 40.4%, Martinez – 38.1%, and David Moyes, who registered 40.5% in 427 games.
Although Moshiri cannot do it all in terms of recruiting playing staff, the buck must fall to the Iranian in terms of employing suitable personnel away from the pitch. Managers and Directors of Football, two roles which have been under scrutiny since the takeover, have been poorly managed.
Four managers discarded during Moshiri’s reign and none of them on the cheap. Everton are now on their second Director of Football whose recruitment is as questionable as the last in post. Incoming signings under Moshiri’s watch are largely seen as failures. £350m spent, and not much bang for his buck.
I spoke with Richard Buxton, a football journalist covering all things Merseyside, about his thoughts on Moshiri’s transfer dealings as a whole;
“In terms of recruitment, there’s not been a great deal of success since Moshiri’s arrival. Even first-team mainstays such as Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane don’t inspire much confidence, despite their eight-figure price tags. Only Richarlison and Lucas Digne really stand out as quantifiable hits in that respect.”
Richard went on to highlight the current on-pitch successes at Everton; “players that have flown largely under the radar, like Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, have fared far better but aren’t symptomatic of the Moshiri era. Everton have a strong track record of developing youngsters into bona fide talents dating back to David Moyes’ time. So it’s still very much a system of trial and error at first-team level.”
Ancelotti the catalyst?
Following a Duncan Ferguson lead mini-revival at Goodison Park, a managerial appointment of the highest order perked the interests of most involved in football.
Supporters were overjoyed, as were Brands and Moshiri. Carlo Ancelotti brings a wealth of experience and silverware, including three Champions League titles, to the club. Having overcome rivals Liverpool, in the 2006/07 Champions League final in Athens, those of an Everton persuasion will be hoping this could become a regular occurrence, and clinch them bragging rights in the city.
Ancelotti represents a managerial career in the dugouts of some of Europe’s biggest clubs, from Milan to Paris, to the city of Naples, before a much welcomed entrance at Goodison Park. Ancelotti’s arrival will make a significant difference to Moshiri’s stuttering ownership.
The players at his disposal don’t mirror the quality of those who underpinned his Champions League win in Greece. Carlo’s Brazilian is now Richarlison, instead of Kaká. His Italian striker, Moise Kean, is far from Athens’ man of the match, Fillipo Inzaghi. The gulf in class is apparent, but if anyone could imprint ideas and a philosophy on these Everton players, Ancelotti would be in the hat.
Ancelotti’s Everton results so far are encouraging. Coming from 2-0 down away at Watford, to win 3-2 with ten men, two home draws with Manchester United and a rampant Liverpool, and a recent 2-1 win against high-flying Leicester.
Consistency is an issue for Everton, and there have been embarrassing showings to counteract the more impressive results. A 4-0 loss at Stamford Bridge, conceding two in stoppage time to draw 2-2 at home to Newcastle, and Wolves’ three-goal dominance, are the three fixtures which spring to mind.
Following Everton’s 3-0 loss to Wolves yesterday, Ancelotti was damning in his post-match press conference, “The performance was not acceptable. I have already spoken to the players. We have to prepare the next game and have a very different attitude.”
Ancelotti refused to comment on individual performances when asked directly about Pickford’s horror show, but did mention what was said in the dressing room, “I have said to the players that the attitude was unacceptable and it has to change immediately.”
Ancelotti continued to highlight his side’s work ethic, “If I am honest, the attitude was not acceptable. In some games, the spirit was really good, Against Liverpool, against Norwich, against Leicester. This team has fighting spirit, but we didn’t have the spirit to fight for the next game… The result [versus Wolves] doesn’t matter. They have to show professionalism on the pitch.”
Everton sit in 11th after the loss to Nuno’s Wolves, five points off Burnley. Again, not good enough for Everton, and it looks like they won’t better Silva and Allardyce’s 8th placed finishes.
Although yesterday’s performance was a worrying one, there has been a marked improvement on Silva’s reign. The dressing room a happier place, a better quality of football on show managing a handful of impressive displays, and a manager with a more calming and affective influence.
Ancelotti needs time and transfer windows to entice players to Everton that fit his mould and style of play. Moshiri has stated that the Italian will be backed, as previous managers have been.
Richard Buxton explained how “it’s too early to say if Everton have turned a corner under their new footballing model, but it is clear that Ancelotti has had a huge impact on the team’s style and direction. He still has his work cut out as recent results show, and it will take time for the entire team to reflect his vision, both in personnel and style.”
Richard, shifting focus to the DoF’s involvement, said “fans are beginning to question what role Brands will have as he has overseen signings since 2018, and the return isn’t much better than what his predecessor Steve Walsh delivered. So he’s unlikely to receive much credit for what’s currently happening at the club.”
The spotlight will be firmly fixed on Goodison officials this summer, as Brands has another shot at proving his worth in terms of recruitment. If Ancelotti and Brands can forge a partnership that oversees a surge up the Premier League, Moshiri’s trial and error experience would have finally been worth it.
The newest managerial appointment may well signal a change of fortunes for the less successful club in Liverpool, and could be the catalyst in them sharing silverware on Merseyside.
Written by Sam Ingram – @SamIngram_
Graphics: Sam Ingram – @SamIngram_
(financial source) – Transfermarkt