While Everton have continued to tread water in recent years, spending multiple campaigns marooned in mid-table mediocrity, many of their rivals have made the successful leap up the Premier League standings.
The likes of Leicester City, West Ham United and Wolves have all experienced lengthy European runs, claimed major trophies and challenged the division’s top teams on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, the Toffees have been left scrapping for pride after failing to fulfil their potential once again.
There are many reasons for the Merseyside outfit’s perennial disappointment, but poor recruitment is undoubtedly a major factor.
Many new acquisitions have offered glimpses of promise before falling by the wayside, and perhaps no player epitomises that cycle better than James McCarthy.
The central midfielder was brought to Goodison Park by former manager Roberto Martinez in the summer of 2013 after splashing out a £12m fee, reuniting the pair after their days together at Wigan Athletic.
It was hoped that the Republic of Ireland international would bring an element of class and guile to the Everton engine room that had previously been missing, but persistent injuries and a loss of form limited his impact.
During his six-year stay with the Blues, McCarthy made just 133 appearances in all competitions, averaging only 22 games per campaign.
His underwhelming performances at club level carried over onto the international scene too, with Eamon Dunphy heavily critical of the now 30-year-old back in 2015.
“McCarthy is really turning out to be a terrible flop. He doesn’t do anything. He could be a holding player perhaps doing what Whelan is supposed to be doing,” said Dunphy after McCarthy played a peripheral role during Ireland’s draw with Poland.
“Because for Everton occasionally – I don’t agree with you that he’s a different player for Everton, he isn’t, he’s just got better players around him. But he still doesn’t really move the ball forwards. He never really changes the tempo of the game, this is the key.”
His continuously sub-par performances led to Everton offloading McCarthy for just £3m to Crystal Palace in 2019, a figure which was peanuts for a once highly-regarded player in his prime years.
The Toffees hierarchy would have been glad to put an end to the whole transfer nightmare, but the Irishman’s ordeal is just one of many failures that have held the club back in recent years.