Sylvain Distin: Distinctly Average?

Sylvain Distin, Everton.

Distin: not very exciting.

Isn’t it exciting when your club makes a new signing? That’s pretty much what the summer transfer window is about – especially in a year like this one when there are no major tournaments. Unfortunately, as an Everton fan, I’ve become used to getting a bit frustrated as we struggle to compete financially with our Premier League rivals and don’t usually manage to bring in any players until late in the window.

However, last season we did eventually had cause to get a bit excited about the arrival of Marouane Fellaini at the very death of the transfer window and just the other day the arrival of Diniyar Bilyaletdinov was fantastic – an exciting player with a great deal of promise who will surely add a great deal to our side. Today we’ve snagged our third major signing of the summer though… and well, it’s Sylvain Distin. That’s not very exciting, and I need a bit of reassuring.

I’ll admit now that I don’t know a huge amount about Sylvain Distin. I know what the stats tell me, which is that for the last seven years he’s been playing in the Premier League with Manchester City and Portsmouth and that at both clubs he’s been appointed captain. He’s versatile in that he can play at either centre-back or left-back (a little bit like a certain of our former players) but has never received an international cap for France.

I know then, that he’s an experienced and solid defender who can perform at Premier League level, but I also know that as a signing, he doesn’t fit in with David Moyes’ usual buying trend. Moyes, since he walked through the doors at Goodison Park, has attempted to bring in players who are young and with potential. The two recent signings I mentioned earlier, are perfect examples of this: Fellaini and Bilyaletdinov are aged 22 and 24 respectively: they’ll be an integral part of our squad for many years.

Distin though, is 31 years old. And while central defenders do often mature and improve with age, as their experience and positional sense improves, there will come a point at which their legs start to go. Especially given the fact that with every season the Premier League seems to get faster and faster, and more and more technical. The top sides all have forwards who operate at great pace and with great trickery, and when the ol’ legs start to slow down a bit, only the truly great defenders (like Maldini) will have the football brain to keep playing at the top level.

Of course, I did consider the possibility that Distin has been signed as something of a stop-gap. We’ve just sold Joleon Lescott and with Phil Jagielka not due back from injury for sometime, have only one fit senior centre-back presently in the squad, with Phil Neville and Jack Rodwell the likely deputies. With the transfer window closing soon and a poor start to the season, I could certainly understand if Moyes opted for Distin as someone to fill the gap short-term.

However, the fact that he has put pen to paper (subject to a medical) on a three year contract couple with the whispered transfer fee being anywhere between three and six million pounds seems to suggest that Moyes sees Distin as more than a stop gap. That’s a lot of money for a defender, and his contract will see him through to the age of 34, by which time he will surely be past his sell by date.

I’m a little worried then, that Moyes’ hand has been forced. It’s no secret that he’s struggled to bring in new faces this summer because of an almost total lack of funds. With Kyle Naughton turning us down to warm Tottenham’s bench and Fabian Delph being lured to Villa by a bigger contract, it’s clear that Moyes’ reputation as the best manager in the league (as voted by his peers for the past few seasons) and Everton’s consecutive 5th place finishes are less important to the modern day ambitions of a footballer than the number of zeros on their contract.

Which makes me think that Moyes has in this instance, pretty much signed one of the few players he could definitely sign. Everton CEO Robert Elstone said on the club’s Official Site that “After Sylvain made it clear his preferred destination was Goodison, the Chairman moved quickly to finalise the deal” which suggests that Moyes knew that here was one player who he could definitely capture – not to mention the fact that the way Pompey have started the season make them almost certain to be relegated.

Now, while it’s nice to see that the player is keen to join the club and to pull on the royal blue of Everton, it’s not a great feeling to think that Moyes has signed Distin not because he wanted to, but because he couldn’t get any of his prime targets. Reports indicate that we’ve had a bid turned down for Benfica’s Luisao and there’s been whispers of a move for Steven Taylor that seem to have come to nothing, and both of these players more clearly fit Moyes’ template of young and talented.

With the money from Lescott’s transfer having now been secured, Moyes now has some money in his hand to go out and add to the squad as he is well aware he needs to do. It’s disappointing then, that here we seem to have signed Distin as almost a panic buy. He will give us one or two seasons perhaps, but for three-six million pounds, that’s not great business. Paying £6m for the 23 year old Steven Taylor would have been, in my opinion, a much better use of the Lescott money.

Of course, there will hopefully be more arrivals at Everton before the curtains are drawn on this transfer window, but this signing has me a little worried. Moyes’ revolution at Everton has come from his skill in the transfer market and his excellent man-management, where he manages to get the best out of his players and push youngsters to their potential. In signing Distin, Moyes has significantly broken from his mould and I hope that this doesn’t signal the end of the revolution.

I hope, in other words, that Moyes hasn’t become fed up with being forced to try and sign top class players for pittance and is no longer looking at a long term goal. Distin is at best a short term solution and I hope that Moyes further signings in this transfer window return to his usual trend. It’s about time he was given some money to spend, and I just hope that he hasn’t finally had enough of scratching around for bargains, because we can’t afford to lose him.

Because David Moyes is the best thing to have happened to my beloved football club in recent times. In questioning the signing of Distin I in no way mean to question Moyes because I’ve wholeheartedly agreed with pretty much every decision he has made since arriving at the club, as he always has the club’s interest at heart. I just hope that he again knows what he’s doing and that Distin is, for him, just a good solid short term solution, and that he still intends to build for the future.

Even as a short term solution though, is Distin any good? I’ve never paid much attention to him, largely because to my knowledge he’s never played particularly well in any game that I’ve seen him in. I’m sure he’s a solid defender who gets the job done, but we need more than that. Filling the boots of Lescott is no small task because he was so effective at both ends of the pitch, and if I’m honest I just don’t think that Distin will be up to it.

So the usual buzz of a new signing isn’t really running through me at the moment. I hoped that Moyes would replace Lescott with a young and hungry centre half who would form a lasting partnership with Jagielka for years to come. But now, I’m worried about Everton’s failure to attract players of the necessary quality and what that could mean for the future of our club. More immediately though, I’m wandering if Distin is actually any good, and will he help us turn around our early season woes?

So come on my faithful readers, please give me some reassurance! What do you think of Sylvain Distin? Is he any good? Will he be a good player for Everton? And what does his signing mean for the club? Do you expect to see more promising and exciting signings before the window closes? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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10 Responses to Sylvain Distin: Distinctly Average?

  1. martin says:

    distin in my opinion has been a solid defender but i think under moyes will become a gr8 buy.if i was moyes my thinking would be cover for jags until he is back then move distin to left back.the russian we just signed will turn out to be top top top quality.i like you wait every year for us to get busy in market but nothing ever happens till the last couple of days so we just have to be patient and trust moyes.

    coyb……….trueblue 4ever

  2. toffee-john says:

    distin is a good player
    hes fast strong and reliable faster than allot of younger players in the same position and has allot of experiance
    i dont know his fee but moyes again has commented about defenders prices being hiked up this year due to a shortage of actual quality
    the fact he hasnt been capped i dont know if he has or hasnt but its of no concern its more to do with the teams hes been at than his actual quality im sure not many of the french teams managers would have been looking on these shores at players of man city or portsmouth
    3 yrs is a short contract long enough to sell him on if he doesnt work out without losing him on a free but short enough that he isnt warming the bench at 35

    allot of the younger names being thrown about are way overpriced taylor for one ive heard 10 million

    keep faith in moyes he’ll come good its just trying times we will be up there at the end of the season
    so cheer the team on we are everton supporters afterall

  3. Dayn says:

    I agree that distin is a little old, however I feel that he is a quality signing who shoul slot nicely into the squad. He is very versatile and has a great turn of speed. I do feel that David Moyes has had his hand forced a little with the signing. With Jags out till at least October the options were youth – Taylor from Newcastle or experience – Distin. I think that under different circumstances Taylor would have been the man to look at but right now thw risk was too high.
    As for not being capped, not a problem. Look at Artete and think ‘how has he not been capped,? Then look at the Spanish midfield he is competing against. You could say pretty much the same of French defence over the past decade.
    Distin is committed and experienced and I look forward to him linking up with Jags and forming a solid wall.
    Good buy.

  4. Dello says:

    Think you are wrong on this. Distin is a very good player and a great athlete. He is as good as Lescott, but more of a leader. He is in good shape and I think he will play for another 3 to 4 years. 5 mill is a good price in the current market. He is not as you say young, however you do need experience in the side as well to provide leadership. Neville and Distin are perfect to do this and let the younger players develop under their stewardship.

  5. john barnes says:

    good, shrewd signing for me. nothing wrong in ‘stop gap’,30 something signings. remember richard gough, nigel martyn? as you say, maybe two seasons is all we get from him. will rodwell be ready then? personally i think we need experience there and when jagielka gets match fit yobo will be off to afcon

  6. Mark Hughes says:

    Distain is a good defender, albeit an ageing one but remember he is quick so even when he loses a bit of pace he still should have enough in the tank, but I don’t think that Moyes is finished with centre halves, he’ll be looking to bring in another one, hopefully it will be a younger one, but in my opinion, not Steven Taylor, the lad is overrated, and we’d have to pay 10 million to get him, forget the 6m thats been spouted around, better off with someone like Wheater who has potential for about 5 million.

  7. nige says:

    i think you need to chill out my friend.

    One signing does not indicate the end of moyes usual policy.

  8. […] Sylvain Distin: Distinctly Average? “Isn’t it exciting when your club makes a new signing? That’s pretty much what the summer transfer window is about – especially in a year like this one when there are no major tournaments. Unfortunately, as an Everton fan, I’ve become used to getting a bit frustrated as we struggle to compete financially with our Premier League rivals and don’t usually manage to bring in any players until late in the window.” (They think it’s all over) […]

  9. Veyron says:

    (A) Distin and Heitinga (plus spare cash ) vs (B)Lescott – I would take A anytime. I know you wrote the aricle before Heitinga signed so you may rethink your post now.

    We have Jags coming back and the signing of Heitinga is a stroke of genius as he can play in 3 positions including the role Carsley played so well for us 2 seasons ago.

    With ‘Billy@ in I am actually truly excited by what Moyes and Kenwright and co have achieved in this window.

    WD u Blue boys.

  10. A. Howard says:

    Thanks everyone for your replies. You’ve certainly reassured me about Distin’s quality and his performance against Burnley was really solid too.

    Veyron, I agree with you 100%, Distin and Heitinga > Lescott, in fact I suggested that we’d be better of selling Lescott to achieve something like this a while ago: https://theythinkitsallover.wordpress.com/2009/08/21/the-lescott-saga-an-evertonian-solution/

    Thanks for your comments, and COYB.

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