Halfway through a summer that promised much in terms of transfer business, the usual suspects when it comes to big-spending in the Premier League are, for once, lagging behind. No team has spent as much as he £90+ million paid by Everton in the six weeks since the end of the domestic season while only newly-promoted Huddersfield Town have signed more players than the Toffees’s five. For a fanbase used to frugality for much of the 21st century, the summer of 2017 has finally brought some belief that the club is moving in the right direction.
Forking out up to £60m on Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane may seem a little excessive given their comparative lack of experience of top-flight football, but both players vastly improve on those they will replace while also arriving with the promise of being able to establish themselves as the first names on the teamsheet for club and country over the next decade.
Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez too have time on their side, and if they can replicate the form they have previously shown in Eredivisie and La Liga respectively, they could yet be regarded as two of the signings of the summer. Factor in the arrivals of Ashley Williams, Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin over the past 12 months as well as the promise of a new stadium on the horizon, and the Farhad Moshiri era could barely have got off to a better start.
So why, when everything Everton have done since the end of the 2015-16 season has been pointing towards a long-term vision of the future, are they making the move to re-sign Wayne Rooney?
On a nostalgic level, the move works. When Rooney made a substitute’s appearance during Duncan Ferguson’s testimonial during the summer of 2015, he was the name on everyone’s lips. The vision of England’s all-time top goalscorer back in a blue shirt was enough to make some supporters dream that the prodigal son could one day return to Merseyside.
“I'd love to see him [Rooney] return [to Everton]," former striker Kevin Campbell recently told talkSPORT. "He left under a little bit of a cloud which wasn't his own making but seeing Wayne come back to his boyhood club, the club he loves, would be everything.” His thoughts are largely echoed by those who witnessed the early days of Rooney’s career almost 15 years ago.
But why Ronald Koeman - when he has done so much good work in building a team capable of gate-crashing the Premier League’s top six – would think Rooney is worth breaking the club’s wage structure for after three seasons of mediocrity is beyond most. Rooney could not get into a team that finished sixth in the table last season, so from a footballing point of view it is difficult to see how he could realistically improve the side that ended up just one place behind.
Though the 31-year-old is still capable of odd spectacular set-piece goal or eye-catching diagonal ball from deep, it is hard to argue that he would get into Everton’s first-choice XI even if Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley are both sold this summer. The Toffees’s pursuit of Swansea City playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson suggests they still want another No.10 anyway while his return of 25 league goals over the past three seasons – the same amount Lukaku managed last season alone – is proof that he can no longer function as a viable centre-forward.
Though it seems Everton will not need to pay a transfer fee for the Manchester United captain, reports that they are willing to offer him £250,000 per week in wages when they will likely need to break their transfer record to sign Sigurdsson and pursue a replacement for the seemingly Chelsea-bound Lukaku is baffling.
Everton’s assertiveness and willingness to part with their cash has been impressive thus far this summer, but if they are to realistically challenge the top six not just next season but for the next five years and beyond, then they need to replicate the goals provided by their Belgian forward.
Sandro may take time to settle into such a role, and reports of Olivier Giroud arriving for around £20 million would certainly help fill the void in the short-term. Alternatives to the Arsenal forward are few and far between, and though Javier Hernandez’s £13m release clause at Bayer Leverkusen is likely to eventually tempt someone to move for the Mexico forward, there are not many other proven Premier League goalscorers available to a club of Everton’s current stature.
Rooney’s impending arrival would certainly not be the answer to that particular conundrum, but with European football on the horizon and an increasingly young dressing room to handle, Koeman might be glad of the added leadership. Quite what making a substitute the club’s top-earner would say to the likes of fellow attackers Ademola Lookman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin after their summer heroics with the England Under-20 team, however, is a different matter.
A return for Rooney would be met by rapturous fanfare by both the club and fans were it to be completed in the next week or so, but for how long will they remain patient if his performance level remains under-par? Paying big money for Pickford and Keane is nothing on the risk Everton are taking by bringing back the boy wonder.