A Fistful of Dardanelles

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At the beginning of July I wrote an article in anticipation of Steven Pienaar completing his return
to Everton. At the time I toyed with the title “For a Few Dollars More” as the two clubs enacted a
footballing version of the Mexican stand-off. Over three weeks on, the “imminent” deal still hasn’t
happened, despite everybody seemingly expecting it will. So why the delay?

The biggest sticking point remains the fee, with Everton unwilling to pay more for the player than
they received just 18 months ago. The South African captain’s pay rate went up considerably when
he joined the Lilywhites and it was Everton’s reluctance to pay that rate in the first place that allowed
Spurs to snap him up originally.

That pay rate could actually be another factor in slowing down the deal. I have no specific knowledge
of the loan terms, but with player contracts typically running from 1st July to 30th June of the following
year it’s perfectly possible that the shared salary period has ended and Tottenham might now be
picking up the entire bill. Whatever the state of play on that front, the Toffees will be in no hurry to
complete sooner than necessary if it impacts the payroll.

Initially, the Pienaar deal was seen as something more vital to Everton than Tottenham, and in many
ways that remains the case, but the imperatives have changed in recent weeks. Jack Rodwell’s return
to fitness and the pre-season form of youngsters Ross Barkley and Francisco Junior have increased
David Moyes’s midfield options so that Tim Cahill’s transfer to NY Red Bulls earlier this week was seen
as a “changing of the guard” rather than a worrying departure. Furthermore, Manchester United’s
efforts to prise away Leighton Baines have abated of late with Sir Alex stating recently that he is
happy to stick with Patrice Evra for a while longer; Evertonian fears of losing their attacking left-back
if Pienaar doesn’t sign is real, but no longer desperate.

One thing that could really make it all happen would be for Everton to resolve the Joseph Yobo
situation. The Nigerian skipper was only one year into a four year deal when loaned to Fenerbahce
two summers ago, no longer guaranteed first team football at Goodison in competition for a central
defensive slot with Jagielka, Heitinga and Distin. Initially it was a “no fee, wages only” deal with a
view to a permanent move last summer, but the Turkish club baulked at Everton’s valuation of the
player (believed to be around £3m) and a further year-long loan for £700,000 was agreed. This time
round, and Yobo now into the final year of his contract, both Everton and the player want a definitive
deal with the Turkish Cupwinners. The 31 year old defender has spent some time in the U.K this
summer and though on Everton’s squad list he hasn’t been issued with a squad number as yet. Joseph
and his wife Adaeze (a former Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria) are regarded as Nigeria’s most glamorous
couple and enjoy their life on the Bosphorus, but Fenerbahce’s circumstances seem chaotic at present.
The chairman was jailed at the start of July and recent reports from Turkey have linked them with a
15 million Euro move for Porto’s Rolando da Fonseca because Everton won’t let them have Yobo for
next to nothing! Add to that the fact that ex Tottenham man Reto Zeigler (on loan from Juventus)
is going through similar problems at Fene and you can get some idea of how difficult it must be to
conclude a deal.

At the height of the “Baines to Old Trafford” speculation, Ziegler was mentioned as a possible
replacement for the Everton No.3, but that may have been misinterpretation of Everton’s
communications with the Turks over Yobo. There is also the suspicion that the Swiss International
may not be a Moyes-type player with some question marks about his off-field attitude. Spurs sent him
out on loan to Wigan, Hamburg SV, where Thomas Doll was fairly scathing, and ultimately Sampdoria
who eventually made the move permanent. When Samp were relegated, Juventus snapped him up
on a free transfer but almost immediately shipped him to Turkey on yet another loan. Fenerbahce
reportedly paid him 2m Euro last year but look unlikely to renew. All in all I’m not convinced that the
former Jacques Santini signing was even a blip on the Goodison radar.

If Everton can’t conclude a deal with Fenerbahce for Yobo, both Norwich and Leicester have been
linked with the defender. Dropping a division to join Leicester is highly unlikely; Nigel Pearson likes
no-nonsense central defenders and the similarly-talented Sol Bamba has already been sold this
summer. Carrow Road is a more plausible destination, but the player really wants to live in a warmer
climate and, if all else fails, I see him going out on loan for a third consecutive year. In the same way
that Spurs are probably paying all of Pienaar’s wages just now, Everton have a similar situation with
Yobo, so it’s not difficult to see why a move on one would help the other.

This now has all the signs of going down to the wire, but one way or another I still see Steven Pienaar
playing in a blue shirt this season, whatever happens in Istanbul.

By Rob Macardle, 7 Valleys Media & Management © 2012

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