John Heitinga came to Everton in another transfer deadline-day scramble that went right to the wire as the Dutchman took his time considering the proposed switch from Spain to Merseyside at short notice.
Though a fee in the region of £6m was agreed with the Spanish club three days ahead of the closure of the August 2009 transfer window, personal terms (reportedly the highest salary of any Everton player at the time) weren't agreed until a few hours before the deadline expired.
Fans could have been forgiven for thinking that the Blues had paid over the odds for a player who received a 0/10 rating for this final performance for Atlético Madrid just to get another versatile player into the squad. And Heitinga's first few performances at right back and in defensive midfield, both positions he has filled before, seemed to confirm those fears. He looked short on pace, clumsy and overly aggressive.
It wasn't until a defensive injury crisis in the autumn of 2009 and Heitinga was moved to centre half that the former Ajax man suddenly put the doubts to rest, emerging as the international class defender of his billing.
A series of man-of-the-match displays that lay at the heart of the Blues' winter revival helped establish Heitinga as the rock in the Everton defence. His no-nonsense, ruthlessly effective defensive style and leadership by example had Evertonians wondering if the club had found its next captain and legend in the making — quite the turnaround from the shaky beginning to his Goodison career.
As if to strengthen that burgeoning reputation, Heitinga became the first Everton representative in a World Cup Final since 1966 when he helped the Netherlands to the showpiece event in Johannesburg, South
Africa. Despite another excellent display at the heart of the Dutch defence, however, he was harshly dismissed in the second period of extra time for a second yellow card by referee Howard Webb. To add insult to injury, his country would go on to lose the Final to Spain thanks to Andres Iniesta's goal.
Heitinga returned from the World Cup after an extended break and it took a while for him to get back into the swing of life in the Premier League, Moyes preferring the partnership of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin in defence, a trend that would continue into the 2011-12 season.
Indeed, with Heitinga struggling to convince that he was an answer in central midfield and third in the central defensive pecking order, he found himself spending a few games on the bench and the subject of the first stirrings of media speculation linking him with a move back to the Continent.
But injury to Distin in September 2011 allowed Heitinga to regain his place and he would grab the opportunity with both hands, forging an excellent partnership with Jagielka and being named the supporters' Player of the Season for the 2011-12 campaign.
The following season, though, John was back on bench-warming duty as Moyes opted for the Jagielka-Distin pairing once more and Heitinga doing his cause no favours with some particularly leaden displays when he was called upon.
The lack of first-team action led to murmurings of discontent via his agent in December 2012 and the first indications from the player himself that he would entertain a move from Goodison should the right opportunity present itself. That would not happen though until another full year had passed, with Martinez overlooking his fading talent pretty much as Moyes had in his final season as manager.
He finally joined Fulham on Deadline Day at the end of the January 2014 window, as part of a
desperate bid to avoid relegation for the London side.
By Lyndon Lloyd and Michael Kenrick
Last updated February 2014
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