Everton: Rafa Benitez's bargain rebuild points to a more frugal future

Is Rafa’s bargain bin a glimpse into Everton’s frugal future? More than £500m of mindless spending has left Benitez rebuilding on the cheap, with Andros Townsend, Demarai Gray and Asmir Begovic arriving for just £1.7m

  • Rafa Benitez has made a pragmatic start to the transfer window as Everton boss
  • Asmir Begovic, Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend are arriving for £1.7m total
  • It marks a shift in approach, back to the days before Farhad Moshiri took over 
  • Everton have spent more than £500m under Moshiri but now need smart moves
  • Sportsmail looks at the bargain rebuild Benitez is heading up at Goodison Park 

Had Everton fans been told that wingers from Bayer Leverkusen and Crystal Palace would arrive this summer to bolster Rafa Benitez’s side, excitement would have been incredibly high.

They desperately need wingers – and quality ones at that. 

Owner Farhad Moshiri is incredibly ambitious, best highlighted by the fact he has sanctioned spending of more than £500million since he became majority shareholder in 2016.


Bayer Leverkusen’s Damarai Gray (left) and former Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend (right) are closing in on sealing summer moves to join Rafa Benitez at Everton

Asmir Begovic (left) is close to making the move to Merseyside from Bournemouth on a free

 Benitez was pragmatic in his first press conference as Everton boss regarding transfer spend

Money appeared no object. It was £20m here, and then £20m there, until hundreds of millions were being wasted. 

When Crystal Palace and Bayer Leverkusen come to mind fans may have anticipated Wilfried Zaha, who has been linked to Goodison Park in the past, and 23-year-old star Leon Bailey. 

Those two would likely have cost at least £80m. Instead Benitez has gone for Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend, combining for a far more modest £1.7m.

For those dreaming of Zaha and Bailey, there is a crushing sense of Benitez’s early arrivals being underwhelming. That may well prove harsh on two players that both boast Premier League experience and do tackle a problem area in this side. But there is also a growing sense that a more frugal and pragmatic approach lies in wait.

2016 – £77.40m

2017 – £182.88m

2018 – £89.82m 

2019 – £108.9m

2020 – £67.38m 

TOTAL – £526m 

NET SPEND – £256m 

Figures according to Transfermarkt 

‘The reality is that the manager has an important opinion,’ Benitez said in his opening press conference as Everton boss, when asked for his role on transfers. 

‘You have to work in the context with a director of football, the board and financial restrictions. 

‘If we can add players that are good for us, that is the objective. 

‘We must improve the players we have and have good communication between everyone working here. And we must manage the financial restrictions while still being ambitious.’ 

Plenty in that statement was open to interpretation. Talk of a ‘reality’ and ‘managing’ within profit and sustainability rules set out by the Premier League. And yet all the while remaining ‘ambitious’. 

In the years that preceded the Moshiri era, who took control in 2016 after selling his stake at Arsenal, Everton often spent little but maximised their results, largely under the watch of David Moyes.  

Only twice in the 10 seasons that proceeded Moshiri’s takeover did Everton finish outside the top eight and that was all achieved with clever acquisitions that had major upside.  

It was an effective system – think of the likes of Mikel Arteta arriving from Real Sociedad for less than £3m, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Tim Howard all arriving for a combined £15m in 2007.  Everton got 1,428 appearances from those four players. Immense value and a microcosm of the era at Goodison Park. 

There is plenty of talented players that Benitez will need to improve through his coaching

Owner Farhad Moshiri (right) is ambitious but has seen £500m lead to very little progress

There are countless others, too. The likes of Joleon Lescott and Marouane Fellaini sold for sizeable profits. The academy, a key component under Moyes, enjoyed the fruits of John Stones before he sold for north of £50m to Man City.

In a bid to consistently gatecrash the ‘Big Six’, Moshiri’s ambition and willingness to spend his millions saw that frugal approach replaced with a much more flash one – but not necessarily for the better. 

The first three summers after Moshiri took control Everton spent £346m. The figures were staggering, all purporting the idea that this spending would, in turn, lead to regular European football. It was a quick way to bridge the gap, was how Moshiri is likely to have seen it.

But more often than not there have been costly mistakes – take the summer prior to the 2017-18 season when more than £60m was spent on Davy Klassen, Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun.

Those three combined for a total of 22 goals from when they signed to the end of the 2020-21 season. Klassen was sold a year on from a disastrous move, Walcott’s deal ran down before he joined Southampton for free and Tosun is still stalking the hallways at Goodison. 


Signings like Davy Klassen (left) and Theo Walcott (right) proved to be expensive mistakes

Injury curtailed Yannick Bolasie’s form and he never managed to repay his £30m price tag

EVERTON’S BIGGEST DEALS IN MOSHIRI ERA

2017 

Jordan Pickford – £26m

Michael Keane –  £26m

Gylfi Sigurdsson – £45m 

2018 

Richarlison – £35.28m 

Yerry Mina – £27.23m 

2019   

Alex Iwobi – £27m 

Moise Kean – £27.5m 

2020

Ben Godfrey – £24.75m 

Figures according to Transfermarkt 

As an example, they were forking out around £2.7m per goal for that trio. It was cheaper to get hold of Arteta way back when.

Look at 2019-20 also, four players arriving that summer for fees that exceeded £20m.

Alex Iwobi has yet to find his form, Moise Kean struggled before he was sent out on loan to Paris Saint-Germain where he thrived, Andre Gomes has had regular minutes but Jean-Phillipe Gbamin has been badly affected by injury, hampering his progress.

Coached well, Everton’s squad, on paper at least, is brimming with talent. 

James Rodriguez is an elite-level talent, Ben Godfrey is on the cusp of the England senior squad, Jordan Pickford is England’s No 1, Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes were at Barcelona, Lucas Digne is an established international with France, Kean showed his class at PSG, and so it goes on. 

But if the arrivals of Asmir Begovic, in to replace Robin Olsen as No 2 to Pickford, Townsend and Gray signal anything it is that the model of reckless spending for spending’s sake may well be a thing of the past – and it wouldn’t be the worst thing.

Benitez has a battle on his hands to win supporters over given his strong association with rivals Liverpool.

His transfers have to improve the side and if he is allowed to spend money raised from sales, every deal he makes will be scrutinised given the wastage that has preceded him. 

Sustained heavy losses in the last few sets of accounts were there for all to see in black and white and it is sensible to see Everton looking to cut their cloth.

Will frugality compromise ambition and the ceiling of this squad? It’s unlikely given the talent Benitez has. 

But with his hand rummaging around in football’s bargain bin, he needs to find a gem or two.   

TRANSFERS THAT EVERTON (AND MOSHIRI) WOULD LIKE TO FORGET

CENK TOSUN

Fee – £20.25m 

The striker joined from Turkish side Besiktas in the 2018 January transfer window but is now an immovable object the club are struggling to shift.

He signed a four-and-a-half-year contract with the Merseyside club but has managed just nine league goals in 49 games. 

THEO WALCOTT 

Fee – £20.25m 

Walcott signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with Everton when he arrived from Arsenal in the winter of 2018.

While others turned out worse, Walcott fell short of expectations at Goodison Park, playing a season and a half before he was sent out on loan to Southampton, where he ran down his deal to expiry. 

Getting an assist on his debut for the club, teeing up Oumar Niasse’s equaliser in a 1–1 draw at home to West Brom, was sadly not a sign of things to come.

DAVY KLAASSEN

Fee – £24.30m 

In short: disaster.

Joined from Ajax in the summer of 2017 for north of £23m on a five-year contract.

Within a season he was booted out the door for just £12.15m – and they were perhaps fortunate his value hadn’t plummeted further. 

Seven Premier League games. Zero goals. Woeful.   

YANNICK BOLASIE

Fee – £26.01m 

Always a case of what might have been for Bolasie after a right anterior cruciate ligament injury against Manchester United in December 2016 proved the beginning of the end. 

He joined from Crystal Palace in August of that year but never found rhythm or a place again at Everton after a year sidelined with the ACL.

Five loan spells did not entice a buyer and he saw his contract run down last month. Currently a free agent.




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