Amidst a period of increasing panic among Evertonians in the summer of 2007 as a
weakened, threadbare squad remained virtually untouched as a European campaign loomed, David Moyes moved quietly to secure the services of Steven Pienaar.
An established South African international, Pienaar arrived on a season-long loan from Borussia Dortmund after
failing the daunting task of filling the considerable shoes of Tomas Rosicky.
It wasn't hard to see why the German club thought they had captured a gem — Pienaar had been groomed at the bastion of footballing excellence, Ajax Amsterdam. But he struggled to find his feet in the Bundesliga and was deemed surplus to requirements.
Chiefly regarded as a central midfielder he was used to act as 'link' player
before Sneijder took over that position at Ajax. And although it's believed that he dislikes playing
on the wing, it was wide left where he established himself at Everton,
rapidly warming to life at Goodison Park.
By October, it was clear that Moyes had pulled off another transfer masterstroke. With his quick movement, speed of thought and willingness to make things happen, Pienaar was one of the stars of an Everton side that went unbeaten for 13 games in all competitions, moved into the Carling Cup semi-finals, the latter stages of the Uefa Cup and the European
qualification slots of the Premier League by Christmas.
Such was his impact that when his senseless trip on Ryan Giggs three minutes from the end of a hard-fought game at Old Trafford handed Manchester United victory when Cristiano Ronaldo scored from the spot, few could come down too hard on him. His contribution to the side up to that point had been enormous.
There was a predictable clamour for Moyes to make his loan move permanent in the January 2008 transfer window but the manager, presumably safe in the knowledge that he could sign him for £2.5m at season's end per the original terms of the loan, insisted that he would use the rest of the campaign to assess the South African.
As if further evidence of his importance to the team were needed, Moyes tried to eke out every last minute of playing time from Pienaar before he left for African Nations Cup duty that month and announced his intention to include him in the League
Cup semi-semi at Chelsea.
That threatened to land both Everton and the player in trouble with the Safa and Fifa who made no bones of the fact that regulations state that participating players must report for duty 14 days from the start of the tournament — in this case, 12 days away — and not from the country's first game — in South Africa's case, 15 days away.
In the end, Everton had to concede defeat, both in that club-versus-country battle and, minus Pienaar, the semi-final itself.
But the young South African was signed up a while after he returned on a
permanent 3-year contract.
But he was to miss the first six weeks of the new season with a broken
toe sustained in the last pre-season friendly, against PSV. When he
finally appeared, it was clear he had the skills and the flair so sadly
lacking among most of the Everton team. But his strenuous efforts rarely
produced anything of real note in terms of end product, despite catching
Nevertheless, he combined well with Baines to form a good partnership
down the left side. Towards the end of his second season, it looked like
the promise he brought to the team may finally bear fruit.
Indeed, going into the following 2009-10 season, Everton needed to rely
even more on Pienaar as the creative spark in Arteta's long continuing
absence. But an ugly knee injury, inflicted by his compatriot and
South African team captain Mokoena in a league game at Portsmouth put him
out for two months in which Everton managed only one win.
Pienaar returned to action in January 2010 and played a vital part in reviatalising Everton's seriously flagging season. The second half of the season saw Everton's form bettered only by the top two, Chelsea and Man Utd, both of whom they beat in a splendid week in February.
Pienaar reached his peak playing some great football on the deck, and swapping wings with Landon Donovan, but something about his game flattered to deceive; the final ball was all too often lacking, and — even though his goal tally showed significant improvement on previous seasons — he still wasn't scoring enough goals.
But nothing could take away from an exquisite chip he put over Almunia in the Arsenal goal in January 2010, and it was moments like this that brought him the Player of the Season award. However, that wasn't enough to persuade Pienaar
that his future should be with Everton. An improved contract remained on
the table throughout the summer of 2010 while he headed off to the World Cup and a cameo opportunity for the hosts, South Africa. But it turned out not to be the shop window he perhaps craved as Bafana Bafana crashed and burned.
With no movement on a new deal at Goodison, Pienaar as the 2010-11 season kicked off, Moyes resigned himself to the fact that a player he had effectively rescued and set back on the path to stardom would leave the club by the following summer when his contract expired.
In the interim his play for Everton could not be faulted... unless you expected more by way of a meaningful end-product to all the fine industry and fancy touches. One goal and a solitary assist in the League Cup defeat at Brentford belied the amount of possession that flowed through him but illustrated the somewhat enigmatic aspect to his career at Everton.
Still, Harry Redknapp at Tottenham had seen enough of Pienaar to make him a top transfer target for the summer of 2011 and would have waited to grab the midfielder on a free then had Chelsea not stepped in during the January transfer window with an offer of £3M to take him there and then.
Everton accepted the bid forcing Spurs to match it, which they eventually did and after Chelsea refused to match Pienaar's wage demands, the player agreed a £70,000 salary at White Hart Lane and completed his move for a fee of £2M, rising to £3M within 12 months.
Pienaar would be the first to admit that his experience at Spurs did not go according to plan or expectation. Reduced to a bit-part player making the odd substitute's appearance as Redknapp's side kept pace with the leading Manchester clubs, he would become frustrated with his prospects in North London.
By January 2012, Pienaar was desperate for a move away from White Hart Lane and, despite being named on the Spurs bench that evening, he looked set to join Queens Park Rangers on transfer deadline day.
That deal fell through and Moyes made enquiries late in the evening about bringing Pienaar back to Goodison on a six-month loan. Initially rejecting the idea on the basis of injuries to his squad, Redknapp was eventually persuaded to relinquish the South African and he traded places with Louis Saha ahead of the 11pm deadline.
He slotted back into life at Everton as if he'd never left, rekindling his near telepathic partnership with Leighton Baines down the left flank and weighing in with four goals and good deal more assists than he managed in the last six months of his first spell.
Together with the other deadline-day arrival, Nikica Jelavic, Pienaar was instrumental in the Blues' impressive end-of-season run that resulted in a seventh-place finish. The one sour note, of course, was the No 22's absence from the ill-fated FA Cup semi-final with Liverpool where his talents were sorely missed.
With the season over, Pienaar broke down in his final interview for evertontv, admitting that it would be a wrench to leave after such a successful reunion with the club where he has produced the form of his career.
Moyes admitted in July 2012, however, that he was hopeful that a deal could be struck to bring the midfielder back to Goodison permanently and though it was a protracted deal that would take until 31st July to complete, Pienaar eventually completed a £4.5M switch, re-signing on a four-year contract.
He returned and had one of his best seasons at Everton, being highly
involved and getting a good return of goals. On 25 August 2012, he
scored his first goal since signing permanently, opening the scoring in
a 3–1 away win against Aston Villa. On 9 December, Pienaar scored a
powerful header against former club Tottenham Hotspur, Everton's 1,000th
goal in the Premier League, as they came from a goal down to win 2–1 at
Pienaar was sent off for two bookable offences twice during the
season, against Queens Park Rangers and Manchester City. Pienaar
finished the season with seven goals, the joint most he has ever scored
in a season with Everton.
In October 2013, Pienaar returned from a hamstring injury suffered
two months earlier as he came on as a substitute against Hull City and
scored the winning goal just 10 seconds later. Despite Everton finishing
the 2013–14 season fifth with a club record of 72 Premier League points,
it was one to forget personally for Pienaar as he struggled with
injuries for large parts of it and only scored one goal and made two
assists in the matches he did feature in.
Season 2014-15 proved to be very disappointing for Steven Pienaar, who
suffered numerous bouts of injury during the season, making only three
starts in league games. Perhaps it was Leighton Baines who missed
him most; his game suffering from a lack of that telepathic outball that
had been such an important feature of Everton's left-side attacks in the
It would not be until October of 2015 that Steven Pienaar would
return to action, but with Martinez insisting that extra caution be
taken with the final stages of his recovery. He would not play again
until January 2016 where he helped Everton get past Dagenham & Redbridge
in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup.
He got another start against Carlisle Utd in the FA Cup but that
would be his last in an Everton jersey. He featured on the bench
but was then frozen out of the first team squad for two months. He came on as a sub in the
disastrous Anfield derby that would seal the fate of Manager Martinez.
That would be his last appearance as he was released at the end of the
As a free agent, 34, he would be picked up by his old manager David
Moyes who took the reigns at Sunderland at the start of the 2016-17
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