If you were to ask David Moyes who his best signing has been in his time at Everton, you would be surprised by his answer. Moyes has always maintained that the best deal he has ever conducted was not the signing of Tim Cahill or Mikel Arteta, but the signing of former England international goalkeeper Nigel Martyn.
In many ways this is befitting of Moyes’s transfer dealings in his 11 years at the club.
With their financial shortcomings well documented, Everton have often been restricted to the loan and free-transfer market in their attempts to bring in new faces. If Toffees do spend money on players, their value is usually around the £5 million mark.
But it begs the question, with Everton sitting in sixth place in the league table on a limited budget, how good would they be if Moyes had some resources in the transfer windows?
It is obvious that Moyes has an eye for a player. Looking at Everton’s current first XI backs this up emphatically. The side is absolutely packed with bargains buys.
Seamus Coleman was plucked from the Irish League for £60,000, whereas Moyes has built the rest of the Everton back four (consisting of Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin) for less than £15 million.
Darron Gibson cost a meagre £500,000 and is one of the most underrated midfielders in the country, whereas the Premier Leagues latest Belgian sensation, Kevin Mirallas, is looking an absolute steal at £6 million.
To assemble a side like that in the modern game is a particularly impressive feat in itself. But when you break down the actual cost of the current first XI (circa £45 million), it becomes even more impressive.
Then if we cast our mind back to the deals done for Tim Cahill (£1.5 million), Mikel Arteta (£2 million) and Joleon Lescott (£5 million), we’re getting close to a pretty thick catalogue of excellent buys.
So it would be natural to assume that given a bit more backing in the transfer windows, Moyes would be able to take Everton on to the next level. But on the rare occasions Moyes has spent big money, he has had limited success.
Marouane Fellaini remains the club's record signing, and the majority would argue that this has been money well spent. The Belgian has been one of Everton’s key players since arriving at he club, and whilst he is expected to move on this summer, the Toffees should make a healthy profit from his sale.
But none of Moyes’s other big signings have been able to make a real sustained impact.
The purchases of Andy Johnson and Aiyegbeni Yakubu both broke the club's transfer record after signing for £8.6 million and £12 million, respectively. They both started well before stagnating soon after. Eventually they were both moved on. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, a £9 million signing from Lokomotiv Moscow, also failed to make any impression at all (apart from the odd left-foot screamer).
So Fellaini aside, Moyes hasn’t really done the business with the big-money signings. Granted that his opportunities to spend big have been limited, and “big money” for Everton might be pennies for other sides. But Moyes’s best buys have undoubtedly come from those players that he has paid the least amount for.
Perhaps Everton’s current transfer setup is best suited to them after all?
They are a tight knit group of players, renowned for their industry and “never say die” attitude. A flurry of incoming players each summer could easily ruin the dynamic that currently exists between teammates.
This is all well and good in the short term, but long term there is only so much you can eek out of this "wheeling and dealing" tactic. With the murmurings regarding Moyes' departure growing increasingly louder, perhaps he has realized this too.
The teams currently above Everton in the Premier League are testament to this; all of them went out and brought in high-profile players prior to the season starting or in January. Everton haven’t been able to do that.
You get the impression that if Everton could compete financially, even to the same level as clubs like Stoke City, Fulham and West Ham, then we might see a real push toward those Champions League spots. The team has only just got over a difficult start to the year and the failure to bring in any new faces in January looks to have ended any hope of a European finish. This could have be addressed with even a mediocre amount of transfer backing.
It is only in recent weeks, when Mirallas has returned from injury (dare I say “like a new signing?”) that the side has looked increasingly threatening and fresh. The squad, unfortunately, is too threadbare to compensate for the loss of Everton’s key players.
Given say, an extra £10 million a season, would not be the case. If Moyes could pick up another two players a season equivalent to Mirallas, a feat which he has shown to be more than capable of, then Everton would have a fantastic squad—a squad capable of challenging the likes of Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea.
To get to the very summit of the Premier League and compete with Manchester United and Manchester City you need huge backing. This looks a long way off for Everton. It is difficult to say how Moyes would fare with a bottomless pit of cash. He has after all only spent over £10 million on a player twice in his career. It would certainly be intriguing to see how the Scotsman adapt from a relative bargain-hunter to one of the market's big players.
But with no sign of investment on the horizon and Moyes clearly undecided on where his future lies, this is a scenario that is looking increasingly unlikely Everton Football Club.
How do you think Moyes would fare with some serious backing in the transfer window? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter @MattJFootball
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