Everton boss David Moyes has conceded that the club are very close to bringing South African Steven Pienaar back to the club for a third stint, with the playmaker seemingly surplus to requirements at White Hart Lane, but are the club in danger of undervaluing the 30 year-old’s talents, and should they be doing more to keep him?
The irascible Scot stated in the aftermath of his side’s pre-season draw against Motherwell about Pienaar: “I think we are much closer to Pienaar and hopefully in time I will have something, but I don’t quite have it yet.” With Tim Cahill set to leave Goodison Park for a fee in the region of £1m after a hugely successful eight-year stint on Merseyside with New York Red Bulls the destination, a place in the squad has been freed up, as have the Australian’s wages, with the money likely to be put towards the Pienaar deal.
New Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas has an embarrassment of riches in terms of options within his squad. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Rafael van der Vaart, Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale, Scott Parker and Sandro are all definitely ahead of Pienaar in the pecking order. The likely departure of Luka Modric to Real Madrid will also see a replacement come in, hopefully Joao Moutinho, while a decision has yet to be made over the futures of either Tom Huddlestone or Giovanni Dos Santos, with the Portuguese manager hoping to get a closer look in training before making any final move with either of them.
The 34 year-old manager likes to set up his teams in either a fluid 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 formation from his time at both Porto and then Chelsea – Pienaar is able to fit into both of these systems comfortably, either out wide drifting inside or behind a long front-man, likely to be Emmanuel Adebayor next term.
Pienaar would represent an excellent squad player for a top four side and he still does, but the point was that previous boss Harry Redknapp simply played the same starting eleven every week and rarely ever utilised or rotated his squad. It proved to be Redknapp’s downfall as fatigue set in at a crucial part of the season around April and the injuries began to mount up.
In 18 months at White Hart Lane, Pienaar made just 10 league appearances and 18 across all competitions – a serious waste of his talents after the club beat Chelsea to his signature. It’s just yet another example of Redknapp signing a player just because he could, rather than because he actually needed him or wanted him.
Was he ever really going to dislodge either Aaron Lennon or Gareth Bale? There’s no point having a squad unless you intend to use it, and Tottenham had some real match-winning quality in the likes of Pienaar, Niko Kranjcar and Jermain Defoe just sat there twiddling their thumbs for most of last season and it’s no wonder the one-dimensional Redknapp lost his job in the end, but Villas-Boas looks likely to suffer due to his predecessor’s mistakes.
He will make a superb signing for Everton, though. After moving back to his former club on loan on deadline day, he started the club’s remaining 14 games and ended up on the losing side just twice as Moyes’ side enjoyed their customary boost in the second half of the season which saw them leapfrog local rivals Liverpool into 7th in the final standings in the league.
In the 24 league games prior to Pienaar’s arrival, Everton scored just 24 goals, but in the 14 matches with the South African, they struck 26 times. He also created 32 chances in that short spell, third only to Leon Osman and Leighton Baines with 38 and 67 respectively, but over the course of a full season.
The way he managed to settle in despite moving to the side with relatively little match practice shows that it’s a move that definitely suits both Everton and the player in question – sometimes players just suit certain clubs down to the ground. He finished the campaign with six assists and he attempted 12 through balls, the most within the entire squad over the full season, with Leon Osman again close behind with eight all season. It’s clear that Pienaar makes this side tick a lot more going forward and his creativity was one of the reasons for the club’s excellent form after January and at just £2m potentially rising to £5m, he’s an absolute bargain.
Pienaar is an intelligent, dynamic and fluid player capable of playing in various roles in multiple systems. Over the course of a full season, with a manager that truly trusts him, he can make a huge difference. He may not be a long-term bet for Tottenham, but his versatility and adaptability make him an under-appreciated talent and one that the club should think long and hard about before ditching.
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