Christmas is fast approaching and a visit from Everton on Boxing Day, is about as welcome as a stocking full of cheap underwear and Michael Bublé CDs.
The Toffees now boast some of the Premier League’s most promising talents, assembling a squad more than capable of at least securing Europa League qualification.
It still cost less than Newcastle’s current crop of relegation-threatened strugglers…
Over the course of two seasons and four windows, Everton have spent the same amount as United did this summer alone. The names that stand out are undoubtedly Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu, both of whom have been outstanding in recent weeks.
How did Martinez manage to ensnare the pair?
He gave them a taste of life at Goodison Park. Both started their Everton careers on loan, where they could see first-hand what kind of club they would be joining. A close-knit squad, a forward-thinking boss at the helm, top of the range training facilities and a great atmosphere on Saturday afternoons.
It might be a stepping stone to bigger and better things, just as Newcastle must be considered these days, but it’s the right kind of stepping stone.
Everton have always been strong in the loan market.
Under David Moyes, players like Mikel Arteta, Tim Howard and Steven Pienaar made an impression on the Goodison faithful during a shorter stint on Merseyside, and were impressed enough with their surroundings to make their moves permanent.
That tried and tested policy continues under Martinez, who has snapped up Lukaku, Deulofeu, Gareth Barry and Aaron Lennon in similar circumstances.
On Saturday, they will travel north to a club which has spent over the £50m mark in one window, and only has seventeen points – and seventeenth place – to show for it.
Sure, Wijnaldum and Mbemba already look worth the outlay, but the same cannot yet be said of the other recruits. Going back a little further, the trio of Siem de Jong, Emmanuel Riviere and Remy Cabella costs a combined £20m, and not one of them has ever looked entirely convincing in a black and white shirt.
It begs the question: why don’t United follow Everton’s lead and try before they buy?
Truth be told, Newcastle have rarely benefitted from taking players on loan. The list of misfires – Luuk de Jong, Ferreyra, Ireland, Gonzalez – is seemingly endless, and those who did make their mark were often snapped up by the bigger clubs with no financial advantage to United, as was the case with Sylvain Distin and Loic Remy.
In contrast with Everton’s high conversion rate, only two players have signed on the dotted line after a successful loan spell: Danny Simpson and Hatem Ben Arfa.
What is stopping us from dipping into the loan market? First and foremost, the club’s summer signings point towards investment and profit in the longer term. Taking a player on loan generally involves expenditure, in the form of a fee and/or the player’s wages, without the guarantee of a return.
The need to turn a profit is also reflected in the club’s favoured transfer markets. Taking Everton as an example, most of their successful loan signings have come from these shores or via Spain. Ligue 1, the Eredivisie and the Pro League are different matters entirely.
Only the very best within the French, Dutch and Belgian leagues are considered to be good enough to play at Premier League level, whereas those on the fringes in Europe’s other elite leagues – La Liga, Bundesliga, possibly Serie A – will still be deemed worthy of a look, and can become available on a temporary basis.
With this in mind, clubs like PSV and Marseille are less likely to allow their stars to depart on loan, especially if they are strapped for cash like the latter. A loan-to-buy agreement for L’OM’s Florian Thauvin – ironically similar to that which has seen Remy Cabella move in the opposite direction – could have been ideal. Instead, Newcastle had to pony up an eight-figure sum for a player who might never find his level in England.
Despite all this, one key difference between ourselves and our Mersey counterparts remains – Everton is an attractive proposition, and remains so once the player is through the door. It’s one thing selling a club with a fine tradition and famously passionate support base to players from afar.
It becomes harder when they experience the darker side of life at St. James Park – the keenly felt hatred of the hierarchy, the perennial pessimism and the cacophony of boos that is only ever one poor result away.
It’s hardly a conducive atmosphere in which to play your best football.
As we hover on the edge of the Premier League precipice, the need to strengthen remains apparent. I’m sure we’d love to see Mike splash yet more cash in the sales, but a post-Christmas splurge seems rather unlikely. Besides, there are lessons to be learned from the Boxing Day opposition.
Newcastle could be better off borrowing before buying this time around.
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