With Sandro Ramirez and Michael Keane arriving at the club, Everton are wasting no time in completing deals for plenty of players in problem positions for them this summer.
Jordan Pickford and Davy Klaassen have already been added to the ranks, and Ronald Koeman has given himself every chance of gelling quite a few new recruits into his side by getting them to the club right at the start of pre-season. It’s the dream scenario for a new signing, and might pay spectacular dividends come the start of the season, as it was a slow period before Christmas which saw the Toffees stuck in no-man’s land between the top clubs and the rest.
But whilst some of those signings have been with squad strengthening in mind, others may well be born of circumstance. With the futures of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley both seeming uncertain at the moment, replacements for both may well have to be found. Indeed, a move for Wayne Rooney is reportedly close to being sealed, too.
It makes you wonder what’s happening, though. The youth of the players signed by Koeman so far this window is admirable, but it’s exactly what he was brought to the club to do. An ageing team was what he inherited, and although Rooney doesn’t sound particularly ancient at 31, you don’t get the impression that this is a man with the better part of a decade left to give to football. You might argue that, with all that youth being brought in, some experience is necessary, but a deal for Rooney does seem like a bit of an outlier.
He also doesn’t seem to fit with a new, more versatile look to Everton’s side – certainly if Barkley and Lukaku end up leaving the club. Klaassen and Barkley are very different types of attacking playmaker, for example, whilst Sandro isn’t the powerful forward that Lukaku certainly is. All of that points to a more intricate, passing style, and whilst Rooney may have the technical ability to play in such a role, it’s his physical ability to create space and move that poses the problem.
After having sorted the summer business out so early, it’s wise not to criticise Koeman and the Everton board too much as they’ve clearly done a good job so far. But if they were relaxing with their feet up on Sunday after a job well done, they might have seen a striker on TV who fits much better than Wayne Rooney into a team with Klaassen and Sandro: Lars Stindl.
The German scored the winning goal in the Confederations Cup final, and whilst it certainly wasn’t a goal to catch the eye and point to a world class ability, he certainly is the kind of player who can pass, move and link-up with his teammates. And rather than attempting to replace Romelu Lukaku like for like – which is usually a terrible idea when a player of such quality departs – Stindl is the type of attacker who fits into a different role. One which Koeman’s new signings seem to favour.
In fact, if Koeman justifies signing Rooney on the basis that his young squad could be doing with a talent with European experience, Stindl is also a man who fits that bill. Having played, over the last few seasons, with Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League, and last year in the Europa League after their exit, he is a man with more experience than most in the Toffees’ young team. His five goals in eight European competitions last term tells you all you need to know, too.
Two goals in five in the Champions League is mitigated by the fact that his side faced Barcelona, Manchester City and Celtic in the group stages, before being knocked out and facing Fiorentina, when Stindl scored a hat-trick and set up another to see his side come from a first-leg home defeat to blow away the Italian side in Florence in a pressurised second leg.
For next season at least, that’s the sort of player Everton need. And given the fact that Gladbach finished outside the European spots, he might be easier to get a hold of.
But Stindl is far from a goalscorer. He can play in an attacking midfield role as well as in wide roles if needed, showing his versatility and the reason you might refer to him as an ‘attacker’ rather than a ‘striker’. If Lukaku does leave, that’s the sort of versatility that might come in handy, and if a hefty fee frees up more money for a big-name signing, then Stindl could still have a big role in the team.
It might seem like a bit of a left-field signing, and there’s no indication either that the club would be interested or even if the player would be, but if Everton are seriously considering a move for Rooney this summer, Stindl really does seem like a better option.
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