Some Everton fans will be filled with mixed emotions following Manchester City’s acquisition of Jack Rodwell, the best thing to come out of Southport since the final train that thankfully took me out of Southport.
And these emotions are mixed because Rodwell remains something of an unknown quantity. Despite being an active member of the squad for years, recognition of his tender age by David Moyes combined with a propensity to pick up injuries has meant that Rodwell has featured sporadically. Because of this, it’s still unclear what kind of player he will be.
Praised from a young age and regarded by the club’s training staff as an exciting prospect, the 21-year-old has nevertheless only intermittently given flashes of brilliance.
Illustrative of this uncertainty, at the moment it’s not even certain what position he is best suited for. During his time in Everton’s youth system Rodwell played at times as a centre-half, only primarily becoming a defensive-midfielder as he entered the first team.
Propensity to pick up injuries has meant that Rodwell has featured sporadically
On occasions since, he’s even been played further up the field, occupying a more creative midfield role. This shifting of his positions could suggest versatility to some but equally an inability to make a role-his-own to others. Essentially, it’s the difference between him being a potential Johan Cruyff or a potential Alan Harper, depending upon your perspective.
The propensity to collect injuries alluded to above, has also been something of a concern to many Evertonians. Rodwell has spent lengthy periods on the sidelines because of various knocks, picking them up with more regularity than others in the first team. This could be attributable to a combination of his youth and his inclusion in a team renowned for its combative approach to games.
But it could also be a sign of things to come, evidence of a player who will be dogged by injuries and lay-offs throughout his career, spells on the sideline that could incrementally erode the talent that he displayed so prodigiously in his youth.
Set against these uncertainties for Evertonians will be the £15m received for Rodwell from the bottomless coffers of Sheikh Mansour. For a club as financially constrained as Everton, that sum represents a massive injection of cash, the largest it has received for some time.
Rodwell has spent lengthy periods on the sidelines because of various knocks
With it, should the bank be willing, the club could invest in new additions to the squad, most urgently someone to either cover or to play alongside striker Nikica Jelavic. As the past few seasons have proved, any club that relies on the firepower of one individual is taking an enormous risk; playing roulette with the twin possibilities of injury and loss-of-form.
The mixed emotions felt by Evertonians are of course far from unique. Many supporters out there have also, at some point, gone through the same mental anguish currently plaguing the average Blue.
Weighing the scales of a young player’s future potential against his current value is nothing new in football. Even big clubs awash with money sometimes opt to cut their losses on young players, figuring that a few quid now is better than nothing later on.
But although this problem is applicable to all, the dilemma of cashing in today and potentially losing either a great player or a future fortune tomorrow is more pertinent to those clubs struggling financially, by which I mean almost everyone outside the higher echelons of the football league.
Invest in new additions to the squad, most urgently someone to either cover or to play alongside striker Nikica Jelavic
It’s a sad reality that in the modern game most clubs who find a player with enormous potential run the risk of losing him to one of the big boys, should that player proves adept at adapting to life in the top flight, as Rodwell intermittently has. The overwhelming majority of clubs are essentially breeding grounds for the English stars of tomorrow, those special few who will grace the likes of Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium.
The ability to keep hold of youthful talent can be a seen as a key marker of where you stand in the football food chain. For Everton, the loss of Rodwell proves that the lure of much needed money far outstretched the club’s capacity to gamble on the player’s future potential. It’s a decision that illustrates how little Everton have improved since the loss of Wayne Rooney to Manchester United in 2004.
But of course, every transfer is a two-way deal and there might be many a City fan today scratching their heads in wonder at the acquisition of a player that is not guaranteed a place in the Everton starting eleven.
It’s not for me to second guess that buying policy that exists at City, but over the last few years there seems to have been a desire to purchase English players in the early to mid twenties age bracket, possessed of some Premiership experience and with plenty of seasons ahead of them, such as, Adam Johnson, James Milner and Joleon Lescott.
Those special few who will grace the likes of Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium
What’s more, a club like City can afford to take a gamble. Rodwell might not have set the world on fire at Everton, but maybe he might find the space to thrive in a technically superior side, one that plays fluid, attacking football, rather than the tightly organised game that is usually on show at Goodison Park.
But even if he doesn’t, how much of a dent will the £15m outlay really impact on City? After all, this was a club which, last season, was able to leave out a player that had cost them a small fortune and who was one of the best forwards in the game and still go on to win the league.
From Everton’s perspective, Jelavic would probably have to commit an act of jaw-dropping depravity or publically defecate on a picture of Dixie Dean before being dropped from the side.
So in essence, City fans have little to worry about. If he turns out to be great then you’ve got a bargain and if he’s shit then Everton could always buy him back. Judging by the club’s unconventional approach to transfer policy, as evidenced by the Steven Pienaar deal, Everton are always happy to purchase players for more than they sold them for, especially if they’re that much older and nearing the end of their career.
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