The main story dominating the final few weeks of the transfer window has been Joleon Lescott’s potential transfer from Everton to Manchester City. With time running out, the will of many individuals will be tested with lots of sub-plots being played out around the saga.
Will Everton finally soften their stance and sell their star? Will Manchester City pursue other options? Will the Everton board go over David Moyes’ head and sell Lescott anyway? Will it affect the performance of Lescott and the Everton team on the pitch?
Despite their hard-line stance, the decision to keep or sell Lescott is a big one for a club such as Everton.
Their squad is already threadbare and they do not have the funds to sign the big names required to push them onto the next level. Moyes’ philosophy has centred on developing good young talent from smaller clubs, players like Jagielka, Cahill and Lescott himself, have flourished under Moyes’ guidance.
The £20 million plus would assist in strengthening the squad even further but at the same time how can you develop as a team when you sell your best players? It is a difficult judgement to make for Everton and one which City are praying on.
Everton must also weigh up the effect Lescott is having on the other players. They were annihilated on the opening day by Arsenal and it appeared that Lescott and the team were distracted by off the field issues. If Lescott is a disruptive influence who is splitting the dressing room, can they afford to keep him in the team?
The card up Everton’s sleeve comes in the form of the forthcoming World Cup. Lescott will be keen to be on the plane to South Africa and if he does stay, the chance to get a place in that England squad should keep him on the field and keep him focused. In this respect his situation seems similar to that of Gareth Barry’s twelve months ago. A disgruntled Barry returned to Villa, performed well and maintained his place in the England squad.
It is hard to feel any sympathy for Lescott who will be sacrificing stability and European competition if he is to join Mark Hughes at City. He will of course be keen to stress he is joining an exciting project but instead he will be labelled with the mercenary tag.
However, it is a sticky issue particularly when you consider what happens when the boot is on the other foot. If a club doesn’t want a player anymore then they are discarded quickly irrespective of whether that player wants to stay or not.
When the serious money came into football, loyalty quickly left. As Arsene Wenger stated, contracts are more or less worthless now and it leaves players and clubs in a constant state of flux.
Manchester City’s millions may not just end up turning Lescott’s head but the heads of the Everton hierarchy too. It is well known that Everton need some serious financial investment to continue to compete with the bigger clubs. Tottenham, Aston Villa and City have all spent large sums again this summer and there is a belief that Everton may get left behind.
It is also common knowledge that City’s transfer kitty is more or less a bottomless pit and the whole saga will seriously test Everton’s will power.
The interesting piece in the puzzle is David Moyes. Moyes is a proud man, a man widely respected in the game and a man who strikes you as someone who does not give in easily. Moyes has retained a strong position on Lescott outlining that the player is not for sale at any cost.
He has rejected Lescott’s written transfer request and if it were up to the Scot, the whole debacle wouldn’t even be an issue. There are however other pieces on the board.
If Moyes’ demands are met and Lescott stays then we can safely assume that he calls the shots at Everton. The situation becomes a lot cloudier though if Lescott pushes his transfer through. In this case, questions will begin to arise regarding Moyes’ control of transfers and first team affairs.
The recent trend in this country has been to let Commercial and Executive Directors handle transfers leaving managers with less say on those coming in and those going out.
A textbook example was the turnaround at Newcastle last summer. Kevin Keegan was infuriated when James Milner was sold and disillusioned when players such as Xisco were signed against his wishes.
If Lescott wears royal blue come September we can assume that Moyes is the king but if the centre-half is wearing a lighter shade of blue, Moyes, like so many other managers in the league, may just be another powerless pawn.