Mixed Feelings: Farewell to Pienaar

Thank god he's gone?

So Steven Pienaar has signed for Tottenham Hotspur for £2.5 million. As an Everton fan, I’m obviously disappointed. Pienaar was voted the club’s player of the season last season (although in my opinion Leighton Baines should have just pipped him to that accolade) and in his time at the club, he has been a consistently top performer for us, but he’s also always played with great passion and commitment: to the fans, it looked like he wanted to play for the club.

Now that he’s rejected a contract offer from Everton, signed for another club, and a direct rival at that, we can be quite sure that he no longer feels that way. It’s disappointing therefore, but there are positives to it as well – even despite the transfer fee, let’s face it, £2.5m is a snip for a player of his quality. Ultimately though, it could well be a plus for Everton that Pienaar has left the club – to find out, let’s look at the pros and cons.

First things first, let’s look at the negatives:

We’ve lost a quality player.
The obvious one really isn’t it? Pienaar has been attracting the attention of clubs like Spurs, Chelsea and apparently from big European clubs for a reason: he’s a talented player. While not an out and out winger, he’s deceptively quick, has incredibly tricky feet, reads the game beautifully, can turn a player or draw a foul instinctively and has an eye for a killer pass. On top of that, he will run himself into the ground for his team, and plays with passion.

If he had an extra few inches (maybe more than a few) and a touch more physical strength and presence, he’d almost be the complete midfielder. He’s certainly someone Everton will badly miss. Indeed, in the first half against Liverpool at the weekend, he was badly missed. We lacked his cutting edge, his ability to create an opening from nothing, his inspiration.

Most of all what we’ve lost in Pienaar is an excellent foil for Leighton Baines. Football is all about team work and partnerships, and with my blue tinted specs on, I’d say this one has been right up there. Baines and Pienaar were, for the past few seasons, simply telepathic. Everton have ravaged teams down their right side because they have been unable to cope with the sheer speed of thought and movement that these two can operate with while remaining perfectly in sync.

For a team that was already struggling to score enough goals this season, the loss of one half of our most creative duo is a big one. And there are not really any prime candidates to replace Pienaar. Bilyaletdinov must surely be given a chance, although he is also not a true winger, and beyond him, you’d have to resort to playin Leon Osman (a central midfielder) or Victor Anichebe (either a centre forward or a right sided forward) there. It’s not ideal.

We’ve not got as much money for him as he is worth.
In today’s market, £2.5m for Steven Pienaar is an absolute steal. I don’t know why, but someone is smiling on Harry Redknapp from on high: first he got Rafael Van Der Vaart for £8m, now he’s got Pienaar for £2.5m. With transfer prices the way they are (here’s looking at you, Randy Lerner and Gerard Houllier), this is a deal that Spurs fans will rightly be delighted with. They’ve added good depth to their squad for, realistically, nothing.

From an Evertonian perspective, things are quite different. We don’t have any money at all. The whole world knows we’re crying out for a striker but the simple fact is that Moyes doesn’t have any money with which to buy one. So it’s doubly painful that Pienaar, one of our best players and a player who should be one of our biggest financial assets, has been able to leave for such a poultry sum. We needed the money, because while we now have some to spend, £2.5m is not going to get us anywhere near a striker, nor a direct replacement for Pienaar.

There are though, some positives too:

We did get something for him…
Let’s face it, while £2.5m may not be much, it is at least better than nothing. Which was the alternative, because if we hadn’t sold him now, he would have walked away from the club for free at the end of the season. It had become clear that no matter what deal the club offered him – or could afford to offer him – Pienaar was not going to be signing an extension with Everton. So, given that it was a case of sooner + cash or later for nothing, well there is some solace in this deal.

Of course, we could argue and theorise all night about whether keeping Pienaar for the rest of the season would have had a greater value to the club than the £2.5m raised from his sale now, but ultimately comparing concrete financial values with subjective performance based values will never resolve anything, and so it is perhaps wise to resolve that it’s better to gain the value you can appreciate now.

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The transfer hasn’t disrupted the squad.
Following on from the last point, it could also be suggested that retaining Pienaar’s services against the wishes of the player himself could in fact have had a negative impact on the club’s fortunes this season. Every fan knows that a player is only of any value to the team if they are committed to the club, if they are happy walking out onto the pitch in the team’s colours. I must state that Pienaar’s performances were exceptional in their commitment to the end, but he was left out of the Merseyside Derby because his head was no longer right.

With that in mind, knowing that there had been concrete interest in his services and possessing a clear desire to join at least one of the interested parties, it was certainly time to let Pienaar leave. Moyes found out the hard way, when the much less dignified Joleon Lescott threw his toys from the pram, that playing a player whose head has been turned by the possibility of a transfer can have disastrous on-field consequences.

So while we all wish that Pienaar had wanted to stay at Everton, and we wish that the interest from Spurs and Chelsea et al hadn’t come along to distract him from playing for our great club, it is at least good that the transfer didn’t develop into a saga that had a negative effect on the club’s performances. While we may miss his positive contributions on the pitch, at least he didn’t leave on the back of negative ones.

We’ve made a profit from Pienaar.
Strange though it may seem, selling Pienaar for £2.5m has actually meant that Everton have made a net profit (in terms of transfer fees) from Steven Pienaar. Signed initially on loan by Moyes from Borussia Dortmund, we made the deal permanent for the frankly bargain basement price of £2m. Even at that time it was an incredible steal for a player who had graduated from Ajax’s famed academy with a reputation as one to watch, no matter how much he’d struggled in Dortmund.

Of course, you may well argue that a £500k profit is practically nothing, and you’d be right. A gain of £500k isn’t much to shout about, but when you consider that that figure simply compliments the three and a half seasons of excellence on the pitch that we also got from him. As I said earlier, putting a financial figure to that value is nigh on impossible and I’m not going to be foolish enough to try, but let’s just put it like this: Everton FC have made a significant profit from Steven Pienaar.

It’s given us some room to maneuver in the transfer window.
I’ve already stated a number of times that £2.5m is not very much for Pienaar, and it will not go a long way in the transfer window. But that is not all we’ve gained from Pienaar’s sale in financial terms. We’ve also relieved the wage budget of a significant weight. Pienaar was not necessarily one of the club’s top earners (though he would have been if he’d have signed the offered contract), but he was taking home a very decent paypacket each week and those funds can now be reallocated.

I’m not saying that we’re going to be able to go out and buy Fernando Torres with Pienaar’s next paypacket, but it does give the club a little bit of room to move. What with no longer having to pay the wages of Pienaar and Yakubu, the club may now be able to find enough money to bring in a quality player on loan, or Moyes may be able to sniff out another bargain – like he did with Pienaar, as he did in many other deals: Arteta, Cahill, Lescott, Jagielka… the list goes on.

So, what’s the verdict?

Well, I cannot say that I’m happy that Pienaar has left the club. He was a talented player and one we could always count on to perform. But I think that, having considered all the angles and the possibilities and what could have happened in this situation, this outcome is the right one for the club. While we’ve lost a valuable asset, no player is bigger than the club and by letting him go now, we’ve made sure that we haven’t lost anything – in fact, I think we’ve done very well out of the deal in both financial and performative terms.

But what about from Pienaar’s point of view? I have to say that there are not many players who leave Everton and go on to bigger and better things. Francis Jeffers, Thomas Gravesen and Joleon Lescott could all attest to that if they’re honest with themselves, and I fear Pienaar may one day regret his eagerness to jump ship. Sure, he’s joined a Champions League club, an ambition which he has long held.

But how long will Spurs remain in the competition? And will they qualify again next year? There’s no doubt they’re a talented side, but things change quickly in football. He’s also given up a position as one of the most important and influential players at the club to warm the bench at Tottenham. I’m not saying he will never play, but you try and tell me who he’s going to replace in the Spurs lineup… they’re a side with plenty of quality midfielders already, and in direct competition for a left wing spot: Gareth Bale, only one of the hottest properties in European football right now.

I don’t want him to fail though, Of course, I do wish that he hadn;t left the club that I love, and I’m pretty annoyed that he has joined a club who are in direct competition with us, but I also have to recognise the immense contribution Pienaar has made to Everton FC in recent seasons. It’s often been a joy to watch him wearing the beloved blue shirt and for that Steven, I thank you, and wish you luck – just not when you face off against us.

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One Response to Mixed Feelings: Farewell to Pienaar

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