When Joleon Lescott made the short move from Everton to Manchester City last year for a fee of around £22 million few believed he could justify the price tag. It was an extortionate amount which made him the third most expensive defender ever. Despite this not being a problem for the riches of Manchester City it proved to be a millstone round the neck of the England defender. The transfer fee alone set him up nicely to be considered the biggest flop of the season. His season, however, was dogged by injury problems but having been signed by long time admirer Mark Hughes will Joleon Lescott be able to find favour with Roberto Mancini or will he start to rue the day he left Goodison Park?
Lescott’s eventual split from Everton last summer was as acrimonious as it was protracted. In comparison to many other players Lescott was flattered by the interest of a club with tangible designs of joining Europe’s elite club sides. But his then manager, David Moyes had different ideas, resolutely blocking any potential move of his star defender. His steadfast stance forced Lescott to hand in a written transfer request to force through the deal. The two clubs eventually agreed on the fee but the damage between the player and his old manager and fans had been done. Lescott felt compelled to apologise to any Evertonians who felt let down and respond to Moyes’s criticism of his “poor attitude.”
The anger prompted by this seemingly perpetual transfer saga conveys how important he was to The Toffees. Signed from Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2006 he wasted no time in making an impression at the club. His first season there saw him play every league match and pick up the Players’ Player of the Season award. He showed little difficulty in adjusting to the demands of the Premier League and brought versatility to Everton’s defence by regularly switching from his preferred centre back position to left back. For the fans he was seen as a wholehearted, dependable defender who rarely made mistakes. He also weighed in with his fair share of goals too, scoring ten in the 2007/08 season. It was a goal tally from an England defender that many English forwards would have been happy with. The pinnacle of any player’s career is arguably when they are asked to represent their country. Lescott won his first cap in 2007 and continued to be a part of the England squad during his time at Everton.
If his delayed transfer to Manchester City was to scupper Everton’s early season results it did not bless his form either. The defender endured a trying first season at Eastlands due to injury and inconsistent form. Sidelined by a hamstring injury he missed the last nine games of the season, ultimately costing him a place in Capello’s England squad. His starting berth was already in doubt following Mancini’s arrival at City and his desired starting place may be further in doubt after the club’s recent signings of Jerome Boateng and Alexander Kolarov. This has led some pundits to put Lescott in the bracket of City players who may miss out on Mancini’s 25-man squad for this season.
Will the versatile defender start to question his decision to join the Eastlands revolution? Lescott is resolute. “I believe I can be a major part of the team. I didn’t want to come here and win things and not play. I think I can play every game.” His appetite is commendable but it appears unlikely that he will be handed the regular starting place he craves. City’s expensive pursuit of success may start to bear fruit this season but Lescott could be only a bit part player in that achievement.
His comments indicate that he would not be content with that situation. Would he rather be back at Goodison then? Whilst players will always be swayed by the money and ambition of a club, stability should be just as important a consideration. In Moyes Everton have an experienced and capable manager for the long term. With the continued support of such a boss Lescott would have been assured of a place in the heart of Everton’s back line. Through the support of the club and regular football he excelled, moving from the periphery of the national squad to a seemingly important cog in England’s defence. Recapturing that place will not be as straightforward at Manchester City where he will still struggle to repay the club’s faith in him.