A summer that promised so much has ended up delivering very little for Everton. The Toffees spent around £140million on new recruits, smashing their transfer record on multiple occasions, but few of their eight major arrivals can be deemed unqualified successes.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has impressed, and the returning Wayne Rooney has scored more than many thought him still capable of, but Michael Keane has struggled to recapture his Burnley form, Spanish striker Sandro Ramírez has flopped and £45million man Gylfi Sigurðsson is yet to find a level of consistency.
Chief among the cast of expensive arrivals to have underwhelmed, though, is Davy Klaassen.
The Dutch international, signed from Ajax, where he was club captain, for £24million, came with the reputation of being one of the Eredivisie’s most consistent and reliable attacking midfielders, versatile enough to slot into a number of roles and a regular scorer from deep.
Perhaps a victim of Everton’s scattergun scouting approach, however, he found himself one of three big-name signings competing for the No.10 berth at Goodison Park, soon slipping behind Rooney and Sigurðsson in the pecking order.
The 24-year-old has made just three Premier League starts, with one further appearances as a substitute, totalling a meagre 190 minutes of top-flight action, returning no goals or assists in that period.
Brought in while compatriot Ronald Koeman manned the dugout, Klaassen was unable to assert himself. And now, with Sam Allardyce at the helm, he appears even less likely to do so.
Indeed, the former Bolton Wanderers and England manager has openly admitted he is ready to offload the 16-cap Dutch international, seemingly having no faith that Klaassen will come to be of value to his side in the shot term.
“He is quite willing to sit and stay and fight for his place but at this moment he is better going out and playing some football,” Allardyce said, resignedly.
“I think that would benefit him and give him the opportunity to play.”
Reports in Italy claim Klaassen has been offered to Napoli and Inter Milan, while Allardyce has admitted loan offers for the player have been received. But are Everton wise to let him go? What could have changed so much in the space of six months for them to deem him surplus to requirements having previously valued him so highly?
No transfer comes with a guarantee. Some players adapt quickly to their new surroundings, others struggle. And it is especially difficult to assimilate to a new milieu when moving leagues and countries, swapping one playing style for something completely different.
Initially, the football Koeman tried (albeit unsuccessfully) to play would have been relatively familiar to Klaassen, although the former Southampton manager’s inability to settle upon a formation and any semblance of a strongest XI will have made it difficult for the new signings to gain a grounding.
Allardyce’s appointment, for all his protestations about the style of football he plays, will have rung alarm bells for Klaassen, though. The English boss, like him or loathe him, has a way of operating that has been extremely successful throughout his career, often allowing his sides to overachieve and always staving off any threat of relegation.
For all his technical quality – he is a good passer with intelligent movement and the ability to exploit space with timely forward runs – Klaassen desperately lacks the physical readiness to thrive in an Allardyce side. Despite having been one of the most senior members of a young, exciting Ajax team last term – their leader no less – the Dutchman has cut a timid figure ever since his arrival on Merseyside.
Allardyce does not ask his midfielders to be brutal or dirty, but a certain degree of bite and aggression – gameness – is a prerequisite. Klaassen hasn’t shown that.
It seems harsh to rule out a player’s suitability for a club after just four appearances in a new division, and Allardyce patently took no joy in speaking of the decision he had come to over the 24-year-old, but sometimes persisting with a bad idea is a bigger crime than conceiving it in the first place.
With the transfer plans they were hatching, Klaassen probably wasn’t the right man for Everton last summer. He certainly isn’t now. Moving on, for the sake of all parties, is the right decision.