Even allowing for the big-money transfers that brought Romelu Lukaku, Yannick Bolasie and Morgan Schneiderlin to Everton over the preceding four years, for Evertonians accustomed to years of enforced austerity at Goodison
Park, the events of 15 June 2017 spoke to a significant shift in the club's modus operandi.
Just hours after Jordan Pickford had been unveiled as the most expensive
goalkeeper in British history when he signed from Sunderland for
£30M, Everton announced the arrival of Davy Klaassen in a deal worth
£23.6M, shattering the club's record outlay for a single day's activity.
At 24, the departing captain of Ajax
represented the kind of youthful, long-term acquisition that the club would need as Ronald Koeman embarked on the next phase of his "project" at Everton. A goalscoring midfielder capable of operating from box-to-box, he also promised not only the kind of versatility favoured by the Dutch but a vital injection of potency behind the strikers that the Blues had been lacking in Koeman's first season in charge.
A product of Ajax's famed youth academy, he rose through the ranks, won the national Johan Cruyff Prize for Talent of the Year and was handed the responsibility of replacing Christian Eriksen when he left for Tottenham Hotspur in 2013. Although he didn't prove to be a direct replacement for the Dane's creativity, Klaassen would ultimately demonstrate more all-round strengths.
He captained the Amsterdam side to the Europa League final in 2017 and the runners-up spot in the Eredivisie, finishing a point behind champions Feyenoord. His performances in both competitions
– he scored 14 times in 33 league appearances and registered nine assists from attacking midfield
– attracted plenty of attention and he was linked with some of the top six clubs in England.
It was Everton and their Dutch connection in the form of Koeman who made the first serious move to sign him but while he had become renowned in Holland for his quick thinking, technique, reading of the game, ability to pick a pass while also being a clinical finisher for a midfielder – Johann Cruyff had compared Klaassen to some of the very best among his contemporaries –his much-vaunted move to the Premier League would end in failure.
Klaassen had plenty to prove in the gruelling environs of the Premier League, particularly given that he struggled to influence matches against top-class opposition in the Champions and Europa League campaigns in 2016-17 but he struggled to adapt to the English league amid the
Blues' difficult start to the season under Koeman.
He played a
meagre total of four games and didn't start a league fixture after Koeman departed in October 2017, handed just
one appearance under the Dutch manager's temporary successor, Sam Allardyce – that in the Europa League dead rubber against Apollon Limassol in December 2017, despite some questionable
performances from those ahead of him in the queue for places
in Everton's increasingly lacklustre team.
Despite having almost secured a quick exit from Goodison in January 2018 when a move to Napoli collapsed at the last minute, Klaassen announced in the summer of 2018 that he was determined to fight for his place and show new boss Marco
Silva he was worthy of a place in Everton's squad.
About that Napoli move, Klaassen later revealed that “On the last day
of the transfer market [Napoli] became very concrete, including an
option to buy. At Everton, Allardyce said it was a great opportunity for
“All-in-all, I decided to go to Naples that morning. I was waiting at
home for the signal that I could board the plane until Napoli called
later that day and suddenly expressed doubts that I could not play in
the Europa League for them. That did not suit me. It seemed better to
blow everything off from both sides.”
He evidently failed to convince Silva or the Blues' new Director of Football, Marcel Brands, during pre-season that summer.
“After three training sessions, the coach came to me and said that
for my position he had confidence in others,” he said later; “It may
sound crazy, but I was happy with the clarity of Everton. That is better
than again entering into a hopeless battle.”
He was sold to Werder Bremen at a significant £12M loss a year to the day after he made the first of only 10 starts for Everton in all competitions. In all, Klaassen played just 251 minutes of Premier League football, placing his transfer among the worst in the club's history.
Talking to the Werder Bremen website about his time at Everton,
Klaassen had this to say:
"It was not a positive year for me. I want to make more appearances
than that, but I did have a great time with my teammates and the staff
"Despite that, I want to be playing, week-in & week-out, and prove my
abilities as a footballer. I hope I can do that here at Werder.
"I was not happy last year because I didn’t play. Before I had played
a game every week for five or six years.
"It’s hard to say why it didn’t work at Everton. The style of play
was not my style of play. It’s very physical and less about the strategy
maybe. Everyone is physical and fast in England. It is just a different
style to play. At Werder I can play my game now."
He would later add: "I did not play much last season. But I
have not stopped training in England every day and have not stopped
feeling like a footballer."
"In England, it’s all about the money – because it’s just there.
Basically the clubs can shop as they want. In Germany, this really big
money is not there. The clubs are more concerned with developing an
idea, a philosophy."
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