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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Richarlison exit shows Everton are going backwards once more in hope of moving forwards

So the Pigeon has flown the coop.

Richarlison, the man whose head-bobbing celebration in Brazil earned him that nickname and charmed Evertonians along the way, is now a Tottenham player. His former club are minus their most valuable asset, top goalscorer, and for a generation of young fans, their hero.

There have been tears. It all got too much for one supporter after being informed of the transfer by his mum, who posted his reaction on Twitter and prompted a cheer-up message from the man himself.

There is regret and there are recriminations. Older fans may not be welling up but they are angry at the circumstances which surround the deal.

And yet, finally, even a little relief?

Richarlison’s exit in a deal worth £60 million before July 1 means Everton can keep their heads above water in a financial fair play sense, and also plan to re-invest some of that cash on much-needed new talent.

It will also mean they are under much less pressure to consider further damaging exits in the shape of Anthony Gordon or potentially even Dominic Calvert-Lewin (although the striker’s future remains under a degree of doubt).

However, silver linings will not make the situation feel less significant for the club, illustrating as it does its struggles on and off the field under the ownership of Farhad Moshiri.

The Brazilian’s arrival for an initial £35 million in 2018 was seen as another statement of ambition from an Everton intent on clambering back into the upper reaches of the Premier League once more, on qualifying for Europe and competing for silverware.

It was the Merseysiders taking the best players from other sides in the top flight (not long after they took their bright young manager), and attempting to strong-arm their way upwards.

Of all the excess leading to disappointment under Moshiri, Richarlison’s signing cannot be heavily criticised. He developed into an influential and exciting performer who played a vital role in, not winning a trophy, but at least staying in the league last season.

Yet even his arrival, in hindsight, became part of the overall picture. A season and five league goals after Watford had signed the forward for around £11.5m, Everton paid close to four times that to get their man. It required an offer that even a still smarting, disgruntled Watford — after the manner in which Silva left for Merseyside — could not refuse.

Four years later, he leaves for around £20 million more than what Everton paid back then, with at least £10 million of that in the form of instant profit.

Did they overpay for a player whose highest league goal tally, in 2018-19 and 2019-20, was 13? It is up for debate, but Richarlison’s eventual value to the club ran beyond goals. It encompassed his commitment, fighting qualities, impressive fitness record and ability to unsettle opposing defences and create space and goals for others.

Everton certainly continued to overpay for players elsewhere and with far less impact as they remained on a road that led to this point. A point when they are faced with going backwards once more in the hope of going forwards.

Richarlison was Everton’s talisman last season as they fought relegation (Photo: Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)

Richarlison has played under a revolving cast of five permanent managers since 2018, but the highest the club managed to finish in those years was eighth.

In a different age under David Moyes they had become a club used to selling their better players, painful as it was in Wayne Rooney and Joleon Lescott, and spending the money so cleverly they could still progress. The former’s exit from his boyhood club to Manchester United saved Everton from financial ruin and allowed Moyes to sign Tim Cahill, Marcus Bent and beat the odds by finishing fourth in 2005.

Those days promised to be over after Moshiri’s 2016 arrival but many hard lessons have followed. The land of milk and honey it seemed to promise turned sour and sticky. So much so, that selling Richarlison was borne of a similar expediency to the exits of Rooney and co. Not this time to save the club from bankruptcy, but to prevent the threat of damaging fines or point deductions for breaching the Premier League’s profit and loss rules. Either way, a proud club has again been forced into difficult decisions because it lacked — chairman Bill Kenwright lacked the fortune to crash the glass ceiling, Moshiri has ultimately lacked the acumen.

The end of the road for the Brazilian may yet be mirrored by the exit of the owner who signed his cheque. Takeover talks continue to gather pace with Americans who supporters hope would represent more prudent custodians.

In the short term, it will be left to Kevin Thelwell and Frank Lampard to mitigate the damage of his departure to a team that has, at least, the low bar of improving on 16th place next term.

It will be galling for Evertonians to see Richarlison line up in the white jersey of a club they once rivaled kick for kick under Moyes.

Those days feel like ancient history as Tottenham plan for a season in the Champions League — the main reason they got their man — and Everton just hope to be spared the anguish of last season.

Those young fans’ tears will dry and new heroes will emerge. But it remains to be seen if Everton can take the corrective steps to make another end into the start of a new beginning.

(Top Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)


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