It’s been the worst kept secret of the transfer window. Steven Pienaar finally completed his move away from Everton by signing for Tottenham Hotpsur on Tuesday in a four-and-a-half-year deal for a fee rumoured to be in the regi0n of £3million. The winger, who joined the Blues on loan from Borussia Dortmund in 2007, rejected a contract offer before last summer’s World Cup, signalling the beginning of the end of his time at the club.
Many fans expected offers to come in during the summer, but an uncharacteristically poor showing for South Africa and an early exit for his country from the competition meant Pienaar was not as in demand as he may have expected and the midfielder surprisingly was still an Everton player when the season started.
Given that contract talks had stalled, there was always the possibility that Pienaar’s performances at Everton would suffer. Voted Player of the Season the previous campaign, he was undoubtedly one of the club’s most talented players; capable of creating moments of pure magic and opening up opposition defences with ease. His partnership with Leighton Baines had flourished and the pair provided a lethal attacking combination down the left flank.
To Pienaar’s credit, he continued to give 100% right up until his transfer. Some fans have questioned his decision to withdraw from last weekend’s derby with Liverpool and insist that this shows a lack of respect for the team who gave him a chance when he was struggling in Germany, but this is shortsighted at best. If, as manager David Moyes revealed, Pienaar felt his mind ‘wasn’t in the right place’ then selecting him to play would have been utter folly and of no benefit to the team or the supporters. To use this as a reason to castigate a player who gave his all when he played and allow one moment to overshadow everything Pienaar has given to the club in his time here is nonsensical.
Comparisons with the likes of Wayne Rooney and Joleon Lescott are also misguided. Both of these players handed in transfer requests purely and simply because they were lured by the thought of highly inflated salaries at other clubs. Pienaar, however, fulfilled his contract to Everton. He could have stayed until the summer and left for nothing- at least his departure now means the club has recouped more than they paid for him. Admittedly, his value has increased significantly in the last three years, but Everton need every penny they can get.
Some may argue that Pienaar too was motivated by money and question his so-called lack of loyalty to a club whose fans had taken him to their hearts. Reports circulated last year that his refusal to sign a contract was initially triggered by Everton’s apparent reluctance to pay him a salary on a par with Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta. Other players were being offered improved contracts and extensions at the time, so was Pienaar right to feel aggrieved that his demands were not being met?
One could certainly argue that this was the case. Pienaar was the orchestrator in the team while Arteta was sidelined with injury and continued to impress this season, while the Spaniard struggled to find any consistency in his play. As a key performer, Pienaar was entitled to expect a salary offer that reflected his worth to the team.
For those who argue against this statement, let’s put it into perspective. It is understandable that fans are often disgusted when players demand wages in a realm they could only dream of, but this is the nature of the game today. If in your daily job, you were consistently outperforming a colleague, wouldn’t you expect to be remunerated accordingly for your efforts when your appraisal came around?
Similarly, those who accuse Pienaar of moving to Tottenham purely for money should also ask themselves if they would turn down a higher-paid job if it was offered to them. Football is a business the same as any other, and while wages have reached extortionate proportions, a player is entitled to get the best deal on the table.
There is also the lure of Champions League Football which Pienaar had admitted was a huge draw. It remains to be seen how much game time he will actually get, as Spurs have a first-class squad with players to cover every position. Certainly with the form Gareth Bales is currently showing, Pienaar will not expect to displace him, but with Van Der Vaart, Modric, Lennon and Jenas vying for places in the midfield, it is not a certainty by any means that he will break into the team.
This in itself, is a sad indictment of the current state Everton Football Club finds itself in. Pienaar clearly feels he can achieve more at Tottenham and sees it as a club moving forward; a club almost guaranteed of regular participation in top competitions. He evidently did not feel the same way about Everton.
The £3m generated from Pienaar’s sale will not give Moyes much to play with in terms of bringing in new players and this is a worry in itself. David Bentley’s decision to join Birmingham on loan was a huge disappointment. He would have provided an ideal replacement and is a player determined to make an impression after a disappointing spell at Spurs.
Everton find themselves desperately short of options. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov seems the most likely candidate to fill the role, but he has so far failed to live up to expectations and is yet to convince fans he can cope with the demands of the Premier League.
Although both have played there this season, Leon Osman and Victor Anichebe are not long-term options for the position, particularly in Anichebe’s case, who must surely be restored to a striker’s role now, givenYakubu’s departure, the likelihood of James Vaughan being sent out on loan and Saha’s poor injury record.
Everton have always thrived on the fact they have a small squad with a strong team ethic and a desire to fight and work hard for one another. This has been the secret to their success in recent seasons, but if the club is to move forward and keep themselves challenging to compete in Europe and win cup competitions, things have to change. Pienaar’s desire to move on was a slap in the face to some, but should be a wake-up call to the powers that be at the club.
Via the social networking sites Twitter and Facebook, Pienaar was keen to thank the fans for their ‘magnificent’ support and passion and was quick to recognise the contribution the club has made to his footballing career:
” I really have to admit that Everton made me the player in the Premier League that I am today and I will always be thankful for that”.
Pienaar’s return to Goodison with Spurs will undoubtedly be greeted with a mixed reception from the fans. Some will be unable to look past the last few weeks, but others will take a broader view and remember what he contributed in his time at Everton.