For six months, there was a tantalising air of mystery around the Iranian-born billionaire who splits his time between residences in London and Monaco and claims as his long-time friend and business partner, one of the richest men on the planet in the form of Alisher Usmanov.
There was a feeling that that sense of mystique may have been unceremoniously blown away by his unexpected use of Sky Sports’ Jim White as the messenger of his thoughts in August, with rhetoric that was confident before the closure of the transfer window and arguably more confusing on the morning after the frustrations of deadline day itself, but Evertonians have been waiting to hear more from Moshiri and his plans ever since.
The painful 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea may have been the catalyst but the elusive Mr Moshiri has at last spoken again in what is his first real live interview. And the conduit may have again been White, this time via talkSPORT, and not the Official Site (presumably in the interests of national PR for Everton) but the 13-minute chat was candid, revealing and should be hugely encouraging for Everton supporters.
In it, he almost casually describes the kinds of dramatic forward steps that seemed far out of our reach just nine months ago but which have been taken in a relatively short space of time. If true — as we must assume they are — they represent huge strides in positioning Everton to be able to seriously compete with its former peers and inferiors in years to come.
Substantial progress on delivering the new stadium that Moshiri insists Everton “must have”; the clearing of debt from the club’s books (how much exactly he doesn’t specify but the removal of just the bank covenants on Goodison Park would represent an important start; the provision of “financial flexibility”; the search for more lucrative commercial deals; and robust backing for Ronald Koeman in the transfer market. Even taken in isolation, any one of those developments would have been seen as huge for the club by fans; together they represent a quantum shift in the footing on which Everton Football Club stands.
A section of the fanbase is going to need to be convinced, however. Having born witness to a succession of false dawns, been let down by four failed stadium initiatives, phantom investors and broken player recruitment promises at various times over the past two decades, many Blues have developed a thick skin of reinforced cynicism and distrust. For them, it’s going to take more than grandiose talk and intangible teases of an imminent solution to the stadium issue for them to believe that Moshiri is the long-awaited saviour delivered by Bill Kenwright and not just his puppet.
It’s a point I was going to make in a response to this surprisingly pessimistic Talking Points submission, one that thanks to ToffeeWeb’s open-door policy with regard to opinions illustrates just how deep this cynicism runs among some sections of the fanbase. They won’t be convinced Everton are on the right track under the new major shareholder until there is concrete evidence of something big.
The signs were already there though that Moshiri’s arrival has marked something very different and that this isn’t just business as usual at Everton in the context of the preceding 16 challenging years.
It’s easy to overlook the significance of not only the relative speed with which Moshiri cut ties with Roberto Martinez and hired Ronald Koeman — it came a month too late for many people’s liking, myself included, but it wouldn’t have been a surprise under the old regime had the Catalan been afforded another few months of this season to prove he could right the ship — but also the costs involved, ones that would have been prohibitive before he arrived.
A reported £10m compensation to Martinez, another £5m to Southampton to release Koeman and Jan Kluitenburg from their contracts at the St Mary’s, and then another £6m a year in salary to the Dutch manager is not small money. That’s before the summer’s transfer dealings, of course, which would have been net negative to the tune of £30m (thereby going a way towards negating the lingering “sell-to-buy” accusations) had Moussa Sissoko not effected a last-minute volte face and signed for Tottenham on transfer deadline day. Much of that money would have come from the club’s share of the massive television broadcast deals, of course, but prior to Moshiri, the manager saw very little of that revenue, a good portion of it going into player salaries and servicing debt.
As has already been said among the comments on these pages, the proof of the really substantial pudding will be in the eating and until Moshiri delivers on the promise of a new ground in particular – the day ground is broken, hopefully at Bramley-Moore Dock, will be a transformative one in terms of unifying opinion – and backs Koeman in the transfer market with significant funds over and above player sales, there will always be doubters.
There has been enough to whet the appetite for supporters in just the past few months, however, that the former Arsenal stakeholder truly has a vision for the club and has both the means and the desire to deliver on it. All that is required in the interim is a little faith and a good dose of patience, and that applies where Koeman is concerned, too. Turning the good ship Everton completely around will take plenty of time.
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