In early May, I ran an article musing whether we should prepare for life after Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku…
In light of the staggering, by normal Everton standards, transfer activity of the last few days, maybe we need to pose the title question above.
Last January, Ronald Koeman executed a cull of fringe players.
His intention was clear, the squad was not good enough and it needed cleansing.
He shallowed the depth of the squad, reduced the salary bill, but in so doing paved the way for the summer transfer window that hasn’t officially opened yet.
There’s still departures to oversee – Aiden McGeady for sure, possibly Gerard Deulofeu and probably one of Maarten Stekelenburg or Joel Robles.
Last season saw a definite improvement in home results, we finished four places higher and qualified for the Europa League – better, but still more to do and be done.
Romelu Lukaku has said he knows where he’ll play next season.
He has repeatedly expressed his desire to play in the Champions League, and Everton have for too long looked light years from qualifying and meeting that desire.
If he’s serious about leaving then his agent better find someone with very, very deep pockets as Everton made it clear that we value him at circa £100 million.
Everton don’t need or have to do anything – he’s contracted to us for two more seasons.
And if you read the rumour and gossip columns, other than Chelsea, allegedly, there are no other serious suitors.
Antonio Conte, allegedly, wants him having text Diego Costa to say ‘Arrivederci’, but Chelsea, allegedly, are not willing to meet our valuation.
So, when Rom said he knows where he’ll be playing next season, and said it with a knowing smirk on his face…
Is it pure and ill-placed optimism that maybe, just maybe he’s opted to stay and fight for the right to play Champions League football with Everton?
Lukaku has previously challenged Everton to match his desire to play in the Champions League and we’ve previously come some way short of matching that desire.
Enter Farhad Moshiri, Steve Walsh and Ronald Koeman and last summer, we made some signings.
Gana Gueye, Bolasie and Williams raised expectation levels that weren’t realised and even the January addition of Schneiderlin wasn’t enough to see Everton threaten the top four places.
Much has been said about the need to make ‘signing statements’, ‘splash the cash’ and ‘nett spend’ etc and there’s been much discussion, conjecture and even argument here on Grand Old Team, and no doubt everywhere else.
The last week though has seen something of a return to days of the John Moores Mersey Millionaires.
Back then, we joked that if you played well against Everton, we bought you.
Well in the space of less than a week, Everton have made statement signings and splashed the cash acquiring arguably the best young goalie in England in Jordan Pickford and an established Dutch international and until Thursday captain of Ajax, Davy Klaassen.
Sandro Ramirez, ex of Barcelona and currently a Malaga winger, flew in for talks and flew out again… with the Everton medical not too far behind, we are not to be denied.
M’Baye Niang of AC Milan and a loanee at Watford least season is, allegedly, still on the radar and the rumours of Michael Keane (Burnley)and Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea) get stronger and stronger by the hour.
And we stress, the window hasn’t officially opened yet!
Let’s assume for a moment that Ramirez, Keane and Sigurdsson sign on – will that be the end of the summer shopping, I very much doubt it.
Now to Ross Barkley, our home-grown diamond in the rough.
What exactly is going on, nobody outside of the very inner sanctum of the club knows for sure.
At times last season, Ross looked superb.
At other times, he looked lost and bewildered.
Does Koeman really see Barkley as a key, integral part of the Everton under his charge for (at least) the next two seasons… and does Ross see himself as a squad player for Koeman?
He’s signing midfielders in Klaassen and possibly Sigurdsson and they’ll supplement Gana Gueye, Schneiderlin, Tom Davies, Kevin Mirallas and even Gareth Barry… and we haven’t mentioned any of the players champing at the bit from David Unsworths’ title winning squad.
Does Ross feel threatened by the influx of players in his part of the field and therefore his future will be best served elsewhere ?
Will both Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku look at these early, early signings and think to themselves, “Hey, this looks exciting. I want to be a part of this”.
On top of the signings already made and strongly rumoured, if Ross re-signed and Rom committed to stay, that would make for the genuine statements of intent from Everton that the fans have been pleading for.