May 15, 2024

Everton’s January transfer window is expected to be a quiet one after the club’s director of football, Kevin Thelwell stated that the club is unlikely to sign any players as “financial prudence is crucial.” However, that might not be the case, with the Blues already in talks with Manchester United over a loan move for Hannibal Mejbri.

During the summer transfer season, Sean Dyche signed Ashley Young, Youssef Chermiti and Beto as permanent acquisitions in addition to Arnaut Danjuma and Jack Harrison on loan. Time will tell whether Everton boss Dyche will add to his squad this month. But prior January signings like Jarrad Branthwaite, Seamus Coleman, and Steven Pienaar have shown to be major hits.

The Blues were docked 10 points in November 2023 after an independent commission determined they had breached the Premier League’s financial regulations. While they have filed an appeal against the deduction, it means Everton are currently near the bottom of the Premier League standings, just above the relegation places. Without the deduction, they would safely be ensconced in mid-table.

We’ll be bringing you daily updates on the latest Everton transfer news and rumours from our team of writers.

Everton January transfer plans outlined

January 1: Director of football Kevin Thelwell has predicted the January transfer window at Goodison Park to be “low key” but if there’s one thing we’ve come to learn at Everton in recent years, it’s to expect the unexpected.

Some 12 months ago, the Blues were embroiled in a desperate struggle just to retain their Premier League status and fresh faces, particularly in attacking areas were seen as a must in the eyes of many with Thelwell himself targeting a brace of new recruits. As things transpired, Everton – who would swap manager Frank Lampard for Sean Dyche before the month was out – ended up as the only team involved in the relegation battle not to strengthen their squad.

This time around, while a 10-point deduction ensures that Dyche’s men are just one place above the drop zone going into 2024, in terms of on-field performance it’s a false position. Although a hectic December period was boom and bust with four straight wins followed by a penalty shoot-out exit in the Carabao Cup and three consecutive Premier League losses for his weary troops, there is increased confidence that this group is strong enough not to require any significant tweaks at this stage and the ongoing wait for a proposed takeover of the club also makes big business unlikely but who knows, perhaps the Blues might spring a surprise?

Chris Beesley

Everton loan recall complicated

January 2: Mason Holgate was absent from the Southampton matchday squad as the Championship promotion chasers drew at Norwich City yesterday, only increasing speculation over his future on the south coast.

The centre back’s loan deal will come under scrutiny from all angles this month, with the transfer window meaning Everton’s opportunity to recall him is now active. Holgate has barely played for Southampton, a situation made more frustrating by him putting in a man of the match performance when he last came in for the win over West Bromwich Albion in November. All he wants to do is play football, which is why he was willing to drop into the Championship in the first place. How he gets that is unclear though. Southampton are unbeaten in 18 games and are now just three points behind Ipswich Town in the battle for the second automatic promotion spot. Boss Russell Martin has his preferred line-up and it is tough to see how Holgate can break into it given his performance against West Brom was not enough. The club is paying a substantial part of his wages, though, and is committed to doing so for the full length of the season-long loan deal it agreed with Everton.

For Everton, this means it is not so simple as recalling him in order to help him get a game elsewhere. The finances of the deal are important to a club trying to operate with financial responsibility and agreeing to end the loan would see the Blues lose Southampton’s contribution towards Holgate’s salary. It may be that the only way this is resolved positively for all parties would be if another club came in for him and agreed to take on some of his wages, with Southampton topping it up so Everton do not lose out financially. That way Holgate would get minutes, Southampton’s contributions would be reduced and Everton would not lose out financially while also benefiting from Holgate playing.

The situation is different to this time last year when another centre back loan deal was not going well. Jarrad Branthwaite’s opportunities were limited in the first half of last season when he was at PSV Eindhoven, prompting conversations between Kevin Thelwell and the Dutch giants. Branthwaite took the chances on offer to him in the new year to launch into a remarkable 2023 that ended with him established in the Everton first team. In that deal, the player’s development was the key issue, hence the importance of him getting minutes. Twelve months on he has emerged as one of the hottest prospects in Europe and could be the subject of interest this month. Branthwaite has a good team around him and has remained grounded throughout his rise. There is an awareness that the best thing for his development, and any potential push for the senior England side, is to be starting games at the top level – something he is enjoying doing at Everton.

Joe Thomas

Jesse Lingard ‘allure’ doesn’t match that of Juan Roman Riquelme

January 3: Jesse Lingard is becoming something of a latter day Juan Roman Riquelme when it comes to perennial links to Everton each time a new transfer window comes around.

Unlike the Argentinian international playmaker who used to get many Blues’ hearts racing when he was repeatedly rumoured to be on his way to Goodison Park, there seems to be rather less appetite among Evertonians for the Warrington-born attacking midfielder. Back in the noughties, it felt like every time deadline day arrived, it was invariably claimed that there had been various sightings of Riquelme across Merseyside whether it was at John Lennon Airport or coming out of the Hot Wok.

The speculation reached its zenith in July 2007 when a story appeared on the club’s official website on a Monday morning claiming that he was on his way from Spain. The ‘news’ quickly spread onto Everton forums only for the article to be quickly removed from the Everton website, where a statement appeared claiming the earlier publication was “completely untrue and appeared as a result of a technical error that occurred during some maintenance work on the site.”

Fast forward to January 2024 and the Daily Mail are reporting – although there’s a long drop until the fifth paragraph of the article until you learn his name – that Everton are thinking about giving Lingard another shot at Premier League football. It’s claimed that the Blues are in the market for cut-price options and the former Manchester United player who had trials with Steven Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia but has been training along since a contract did not come to fruition, “could be an alluring option.”

Just how much allure there is for free agent Lingard remains to be seen. Although Everton considered a move for the player in the summer of 2022 when memories of an impressive loan spell at West Ham United in the second half of 2020/21, where he netted nine times in 16 outings, were still fresh in the mind, he was let go by Nottingham Forest last summer after failing to score in 17 Premier League outings.

The same ticked boxes that attracted the Blues 18 months ago that the England international is a proven Premier League performer who would represent a modest financial outlay could still apply and although he is now 31, age has never been a barrier for Sean Dyche who made his former team-mate Ashley Young the oldest outfield debutant in the club’s history this term at 38. However, a year on from the window when director of football Kevin Thelwell negated Everton’s absence of signings on the quality available not being high enough, there would be question marks over bringing in a player who couldn’t strike a deal in the desert at a side where the Blues sent Demarai Gray at a team who haven’t won a game in over two months and the ECHO understands there is no interest from the Everton side.

Chris Beesley

Everton face Ben Godfrey dilemma

January 4: Ben Godfrey is part of a clutch of players at Everton now in the last 18 months of their contracts. The defender is in an interesting position this January, and one perhaps more significantly impacted by the points deduction than most of his teammates. Kevin Thelwell has sought to implement a number of core strategies since his appointment as director of football, and one of those is to realise as much of the value of players not involved in the first team as possible.

Godfrey has been the subject of claims that Tottenham Hotspur and Roma are interested in him but Everton are in a tough position if a club was to come knocking. Should he be deemed a fringe player – and he has only started one league game this campaign – this window is the best remaining opportunity to do a deal if the club is willing to listen to offers. His value will only decrease in the summer, when he would have just 12 months left on his deal, and that will be exacerbated should he enter that final year having barely featured for 18 months under Dyche.

But selling him should a bid materialise is also a risk. Everton’s squad is thin, Dyche has been clear in his acknowledgement of that and has inferred a reluctance to see his options diminished by losing players this month. Godfrey may have barely played but he has also shown he can do an important job when called upon – his one start came against Burnley last month and he played well in an important game Everton won and kept a clean sheet in. It may have taken both the absence of Jarrad Branthwaite and Vitalii Mykolenko for him to start, but Everton have been punished for not having back up in key areas in past seasons and the deduction removes any room for complacency.

Should Everton be in the position their on-pitch performance deserves the club would be sitting comfortably in mid-table and some 11 points clear of trouble. In that case, sanctioning the departure of Godfrey – again, only if club chiefs do not view him as a key pillar of what they are trying to build (in which case starting new contract talks would be the obvious alternative move) – at a time when he holds maximum value would be less of a gamble.

This knock-on consequence of the deduction is just another way in which a process that is supposed to encourage financial responsibility is potentially hindering Everton’s ability to operate with maturity in the market.

Whether a club will look to give Everton a decision to make on Godfrey will be one to watch over the coming weeks. Spurs have been linked with centre backs for months and in fact look to be on the verge of a move for Genoa player Radu Dragusin, apparently valued at around £26m. Genoa is, of course, a club within the 777 Partners stable. If 777’s attempted takeover of Everton is approved this is the type of player you wonder if the group would seek to move to Merseyside to strengthen the Blues – meanwhile Godfrey potentially heading the other way to earn valuable minutes and support the Serie A side.

Godfrey, meanwhile, has been repeatedly praised for his work behind the scenes. Even though he has not been featuring regularly, he was recently highlighted by James Tarkowski as a key reason for the defensive progress this season through the standards he is maintaining at Finch Farm, and that he was able to come straight in and work so impressively at Burnley is only further evidence that he is invested in doing what he can to succeed at Everton.

Joe Thomas

Ben Brereton Diaz back in English football after Everton links

January 5: Evertonians will be watching with interest as Ben Brereton Diaz returns to English football and finally gets his back chance in the Premier League at basement club Sheffield United.

The 24-year-old Stoke-on-Trent-born striker became a Chile international following a campaign inspired by the popular computer game Football Manager, but despite netting seven goals in 27 games for the South American nation his venture into Hispanic culture at club level has so far proven disappointing. Following Brereton Diaz’s contract expiring at Blackburn Rovers last summer, he joined La Liga outfit Villarreal on a free transfer, penning a four year deal.

Curiously, he took the place in the squad of Arnaut Danjuma, another player who can operate either up front or cutting in from the left wing, who was allowed to join Everton on loan after a similar spell at Tottenham Hotspur in the second half of last season after the Londoners had hijacked his proposed move to Goodison Park at the 11th hour. However, after a dozen games without scoring for the Spanish side, he has now returned to the land of his birth for the remainder of the campaign.

Back in the summer of 2022 when then Blues boss Frank Lampard was desperate to acquire more firepower, Brereton Diaz, who was coming off the back of a 22-goal season in the Championship at Ewood Park, was heavily-linked with a move to Everton. The ECHO understands that the player would have been eager to make the switch at the time but of course they instead turned to a certain Neal Maupay in what proved to be an intriguing sliding doors moment.

Chris Beesley

A bid for Andre Gomes would spark interesting Everton conversation

January 6: Turkish outlet Star is today reporting that Andre Gomes is a target for Trabzonspor this January. Such a move would be an intriguing one for a player who has returned to the first team just as he enters the final six months of his contract. Gomes is on substantial wages and there is no doubt that the type of deal he is on is one that has been consigned to the club’s past under the watchful, financially mature stewardship of director of football Kevin Thelwell. It is therefore difficult to see his time on Merseyside being extended unless the player is willing to take a significant hit to his pay. Even then, that might not be enough.

It’s fascinating to wonder whether Everton would allow him to depart this month. Throughout the first part of the season, going through frustration from injuries, Gomes’ midfielder, Sean Dyche, was always quick to point out that he was aware of his abilities. Just before Christmas, he changed the game against Tottenham Hotspur by coming off the bench, proving his remarks. Gomes scored one goal and should have had two more assists as Everton played brilliantly in the loss. With the injuries to Idrissa Gueye and Abdoulaye Doucoure, his comeback coincided with a crucial game. It was his first competitive appearance under Dyche.

Everton has therefore seen a hint of the potential he possesses in this limited group for the second part of the season. Everton hoped to add another central midfielder to their roster this season, but Tom Davies’ refusal to extend his contract made it impossible for Dyche to keep his team growing.

But this would also be the final chance to get some money back for a player a lot of money has been spent on. If there was an opportunity to attract a transfer fee and to lose Gomes’ wages from the books for the next six months then that would be a move worth millions for Everton. It is, like I wrote about Godfrey above, a potential exit that would feel more likely if Everton had not received a points deduction and were 10 points, not one, above the relegation zone. That jeopardy makes the idea of losing players a tough one this month.

If someone was to make a move for Gomes then the deciding factor may be the extent of Idrissa Gueye’s calf injury. If that looks like it has the potential to cause issues beyond January then Everton would surely not want to lose another central midfielder.

Joe Thomas

Hannibal Mejbri could represent Everton opportunism

January 7: When producing a special report for New Year’s Day previewing Everton’s prospects in this January transfer window, my colleague Joe Thomas said it would be a month for the Blues that “is defined by pragmatism and in which they are opportunistic rather than proactive.”

So could Fabrizio Romano’s claims they are attempting to hijack Manchester United midfielder Hannibal Mejbri’s loan move to Sevilla represent such opportunism from director of football Kevin Thelwell? We have seen how Everton have struggled to fill the gaping hole in their side when Abdoulaye Doucoure is absent and they haven’t won any of their five matches since he was withdrawn at half-time during the 2-0 win at Burnley on December 16, causing a significant selection headache for Sean Dyche.

The player, who turned 31 on January 1, has been integral to how Dyche’s team have set up since he replaced Frank Lampard, the manager who fell out with Doucoure during his final weeks at the club a year ago. Rather than go with the classic 4-4-2 that he deployed for the best part of a decade at Burnley, Dyche has exploited Doucoure’s box-to-box running to use him as an unorthodox but effective figure in what he has described as being a “one-and-a-half” striker system in which the former Watford man is the most-advanced central midfielder.

 

Jarrad Branthwaite of Everton is reportedly being watched by Real Madrid
Jarrad Branthwaite of Everton is reportedly being watched by Real Madrid

There are few who can replicate that role with much degree of similarity, although the likes of Jack Harrison and Arnaut Danjuma have occupied similar areas of the pitch to varying degrees of success so this is where Hannibal could come in. A forward-thinking and progressive central midfielder, he could plug a gap for Everton until the end of the season for a relatively modest financial outlay while also enabling both parties to take a look at each other with an eye on the future.

Chris Beesley

Everton hold Hannibal Mejbri transfer talks with Manchester United

January 8: Everton and Manchester United have held talks over a loan deal for Hannibal Mejbri.

Journalist Fabrizio Romano reported on Saturday that Everton are trying to hijack Sevilla’s loan move for Mejbri. The ECHO understands that talks have taken place between Goodison Park and Old Trafford chiefs over a temporary transfer.

However, as well as the Blues and Sevilla, a number of other clubs from around Europe have expressed an interest to United over a deal for the 20-year-old, who has been a regular in match-day squads this season for Erik ten Hag, but has struggled for minutes on the pitch.

Mejbri, who asked not to be selected by Tunisia for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations, and joined United from Monaco in a £9.3million deal back in 2019.

Connor O’Neill

Everton can provide what Jarrad Branthwaite needs as he emerges on Real Madrid radar

January 9: Jarrad Branthwaite is the latest Everton player to be linked with a move away from Merseyside, with reports suggesting Real Madrid are watching him. That news should come as little surprise – Branthwaite has excelled in his emergence into the Everton first team this season and has placed himself among Europe’s brightest talents.

A centre-back with the physical presence to dominate attackers, the pace to recover and the ability to play with both feet, it is hard to envisage how he would not be on the radar of any club seeking a long-term solution to a key position. Real have a headstart in knowledge of the 21-year-old as boss Carlo Ancelotti gave Branthwaite his first team debut at the Blues. What will make him even more attractive to European heavyweights is the experience he gained on the continent with PSV Eindhoven last year. That was evidence he can handle the psychological and technical challenges of a move outside of England.

As he plays himself into contention for the senior England squad, Branthwaite will continue to acquire suitors and – like with Amadou Onana – there is a chance the current uncertainty around Everton off the pitch might lead to an opportunistic conversation this month to test the waters.

Branthwaite has remained grounded during his rise and the surge in attention around him, though, and one thing that will be central to any thoughts over his future is his chances of playing first-team football. He is a player who, for all his promise, has played barely two dozen times in the Premier League and those around him believe minutes on the pitch are crucial to his continued development. They will also be key to him having any chance of making the senior England side for the Euros in the summer.

He is getting those important opportunities at a club he is happy at and that he remains central to Sean Dyche’s plans stands Everton in a good position should someone attempt to turn his head in January but try and play hard-ball with the Blues.

 

 

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