Roberto Martinez intends to make a significant splash in this summer's transfer window.
If that's the case, then this will be a crucial period at Goodison Park.
Martinez must invest not only for now but for the club's long-term future, with such a splurge unlikely to be repeated too often. Derby County's Will Hughes is exactly the type of player the Catalan must consider during this window.
At just 18, Hughes already has more than 70 Championship appearances under his belt. He is one of the most technically gifted central midfielders in the country and is already a regular for England's Under-21s.
Derby have enjoyed unexpected success this season, looking certain for the play-offs, and Hughes has been key to this progress.
Hughes' pedigree makes his appeal obvious, but it's also his style that would fit in so naturally around Martinez's possession-based system.
He's comfortable on the ball, averaging the second-most passes per game (42.3) in Derby's squad. He's also provided the second-most chances (55) with his touch and vision already highly polished traits.
Hughes can certainly make an impact in the final third, but he can also be an uncompromising, disruptive presence off the ball. It may be surprising to learn that his tackle count (100) ranks as fourth highest in the Championship this season.
Over time, Hughes can develop to provide a similar input to Gareth Barry, moving his side around and maintaining a rapid tempo as one of the two in Everton's 4-2-3-1 formation.
Martinez has previously highlighted how rare Barry's skill set is, as Sam Wallace reports in the Independent, and the Manchester City man has been vital to the Toffees' evolving philosophy this season:
We don’t have enough specialists in that position in the English game, that No 6’. Michael Carrick is the only other player.
We produce box to box midfielders but we don’t produce that tactical player who plays in front of the back four.
Every team spends a fortune on that number six: Fernandinho, Paulinho, Sandro, Lucas. We don’t produce them.
Carrick and Barry are the only two.
These quotes further emphasise just how pivotal Barry's role is.
In the short term, it's vital he's retained, but at 33, Everton need to plan for the future, and there isn't a better homegrown option to replace him with than Hughes.
By signing now, the youngster would benefit from a season under Barry's wing and any price paid would double once he became a Premier League regular.
With a Europa League campaign looking likely next season, the Toffees would have plenty of games to keep him progressing while Barry played the senior role.
Hughes' approach also matches up well with James McCarthy's, and with Ross Barkley playing ahead, Everton would soon boast one of the most exciting young midfields in the country.
It's a rare privilege for an Everton manager to be afforded a spending spree and Martinez must be meticulous in his work.
For the club's security, he must set a foundation, finding players with sell-on value and the potential to increase in worth—something Hughes would instantly do.
A striker is clearly a priority; however, once that bridge is crossed, the Catalan must look to youth.
In Hughes, Martinez would find a player comfortable in his system and able to complete the Toffees midfield for the next decade. On ability, style and potential growth, he's an ideal purchase.
Statistics via WhoScored.com.
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