Over the last couple of seasons, Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has put the work in on the training ground to start phasing out the shortcomings in his game.
Since the start of last season, he has made just three mistakes which have led to goals in the Premier League, compared to four in each of the two campaigns prior. However, he has attracted criticism from Jose Mourinho, who said last summer that the error-prone 28-year-old needs to “relax and calm down”.
While those mistakes still shouldn’t be happening at all, his steady improvement has helped him remain the number one choice for England and be linked with a transfer to Antonio Conte’s Tottenham.
Many Toffees fans may remain nervous about letting their number one choice depart for a rival Premier League club. However, after Asmir Begovic’s sensational performance against Newcastle, and the club’s recent transfer interest in Barcelona’s Norberto Neto, the idea of losing Pickford might not be such a nightmare after all.
A report in Spanish media outlet Sport suggested the Merseyside club were planning on signing the experienced 32-year-old from the La Liga giants for €14m (£11.8m), and after representing some of Europe’s finest clubs in Fiorentina, Juventus, Valencia and Barca over the last decade, it seems unlikely that he is willing to spend the last of his prime years as a backup at Camp Nou.
With Everton also in financial trouble, signing a competent ‘keeper with plenty of top-flight European experience for almost a third of the £30m price tag set on Pickford could represent excellent business.
Clubs often look for ready-made goalkeepers to come in and help transition the team during a rebuild, and with Neto’s leadership and impressive CV, he fits the profile of the ideal type of netminder that Everton should target if they do sell the former Sunderland star.
Former Serie A ‘keeper Sebastien Frey once described the Brazilian as someone with “natural explosiveness“, and he has ranked in the top 5% of keepers in La Liga for save percentage per 90 (81%), with just Real Madrid superstar Thibaut Courtois managing more (81.1%).
Should Everton land Neto for just under £12m, they could use the other £18m from the potential sale of Pickford on reinforcements elsewhere on the pitch to help Frank Lampard mould the squad in his image.