Everton: Phil Neville Can Leave Goodison Park with Head Held High

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Everton: Phil Neville Can Leave Goodison Park with Head Held High
Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Everton captain Phil Neville has announced his decision to leave Goodison Park this summer (via EvertonFC.com).

The 36-year-old will end an eight-year association with the Merseyside club when his contract expires at the end of the current Premier League campaign.

Neville joined Everton from Manchester United in 2005 on a deal worth £3.5 million after becoming frustrated at life on the bench at Old Trafford behind the likes of Eric Djemba-Djemba and Kleberson for a role in central midfield.

Neville had been with United for 18 years, playing alongside his brother, Gary, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs before severing his ties with the club.

The England international admitted leaving United had been "the most difficult decision" he had ever had to make (via BBC Sport), but it was a wise one with hindsight.

Neville will be as disappointed as Everton manager David Moyes that he did not lift a trophy as club captain, but the experienced campaigner has left a mark of genuine quality during his time at Goodison.

His debut came in the Champions League third-round qualifier against Villarreal, but Everton fell to a 2-1 defeat before Neville's first Premier League match for the Blues ended in a 2-0 defeat, ironically, at home to Manchester United.

Neville endured a torrid start to his Goodison career as Everton suffered a run of one win in their opening nine Premier League games. He was also dismissed in a defeat at Fulham in August 2005.

Everton finished 11th in the table that season, but it was to prove only a blip as the Blues qualified for the Europa League the following season with a sixth-place finish. With Neville at the club, Everton have not finished below eighth place in the Premier League table since 2006.

His leadership qualities on the field were evident from the moment Neville joined and Moyes named him captain of the team in 2007 following the departure of David Weir to Rangers.

The highlight of Neville's time at Everton will be leading the team out for the FA Cup final against Chelsea in 2009 after scoring a penalty against former club Manchester United in the semifinal shoot-out.

But the veteran can also take pride in Everton's progression to the UEFA Cup quarterfinals in 2008 where a tremendous fightback against Fiorentina was upset by defeat in a penalty shootout.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

His goal at Wolves in a 3-0 win in 2011 will live long in the memory of Everton supporters, while his dive against Liverpool in October 2012 still provides a smile. Neville's challenge on Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo in 2008 was proof positive to Everton fans that the midfielder was committed to the Goodison Park club and not his former employers.

With the passage of time, Neville's versatility became a prominent feature with the player operating at full-back and in front of the back four as well as central midfield.

Neville intends to play as long as possible and said last month he would drop down divisions if it meant extending his playing career (via Liverpool Echo). 

But his options are not limited with a career in coaching already underway and he will accompany England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce to the European Championship finals in Israel this summer (via BBC Sport).

Neville has also followed brother, Gary, into television analysis this season with an appearance on the BBC's Match of the Day.

Last year, Neville claimed his time at Everton would be "a failure" if he did not lift a trophy with the club (via Daily Mail), but his steadying influence and reliability have ensured he will remain a welcome addition to the ranks of Goodison Park supporters.

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