Everton will be a different club this season, and yet a lot will look the same. Over £88million has been spent on new players in the transfer market, but one of those new players is an old player, with Wayne Rooney returning to Goodison Park 13 years after he left. The Toffees, as has become customary, have also sold their best player.
Indeed, £75million was collected from Manchester United for Romelu Lukaku, just as £50 million was collected for John Stones and £30million for Marouane Fellaini two summers before that. Everton could still earn themselves a further £50million from the exit of Ross Barkley, with manager Ronald Koeman revealing the midfielder will leave the club this summer.
So while Everton have spent big this summer, changing perceptions of what they can be as a club, it is offset against their former, and still persistent, identity. This isn’t quite an Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City splurge. It’s more like a Thaksin Shinawatra mini spree.
One aspect of the club’s identity that is under threat is the route between the youth ranks and the senior team that has been provided for academy graduates over the past decade or so. No Premier League club in the last generation has been as effective as bringing through homegrown talent as Everton. Will that remain in the Farhad Moshiri era?
Dominic Calvert-Lewin could provide the perfect case study. Considered one for the future since his signing from Sheffield United, the next youth product to roll off the Goodison Park production line, the 20-year-old forward finds himself on the brink of breaking into the Everton fold after a summer which saw him lift the U20s World Cup with England.
Koeman rates Calvert-Lewin so highly that he started the forward alongside Rooney in Everton’s Europa League first round qualifier against Ruzomberok, also bringing him off the bench for the second leg. The 20-year-old is now turning potential into fully-fledged first team ability. But is this merely an early season flash in the pan or will he make this stick for the whole campaign and beyond?
“Every player always has something to prove, that should be the way it is every year,” Calvert-Lewin told reporters last week,” he said. “I know what the challenge is: I have got to prove that I am good enough to play for Everton. I have got to do things like I did against Ruzomberok, coming on and affecting games when I get a chance. If I continue to do that, hopefully my future will be with Everton.”
“Every season gets bigger and I know that there is going to be competition for places,” he said. “I just have to keep doing what I am doing, scoring goals and working on my development so I am there fighting for a spot. I just have to keep scoring goals.”
If Calvert-Lewin doesn’t break through at Everton now, he may never do so. The circumstances are ideal for the 20-year-old to make an impression, with everything up for grabs across the frontline. Lukaku is gone and the Toffees, despite the shrewd addition of Sandro Ramírez from Malaga, are still short of a replacement.
Of course, Calvert-Lewin isn’t a striker in the mould of Lukaku. The 20-year-old is far more dynamic than the Belgian, running into the channels and getting in behind opposition defences. He isn’t an orthodox focal point of attack, but that might stand him in good stead. There are positions to fill in behind the central striker as well.
Look at how Rooney isn’t even certain of his place in the Everton lineup. It’s not yet known where the former Manchester United forward will play in Koeman’s team, and therein may lie the opportunity for Calvert-Lewin. Nothing is settled, although he would do well to learn from Rooney, someone who has followed the route Calvert-Lewin is aiming to trace.
“He’s a great person to learn off, if you look at what he’s achieved in his career so far,” the 20-year-old forward explained a few weeks ago. “For a young striker like me it’s going to be good to learn from him and just try to pick up little bits. “I want to be a big part in the Everton team. I’m just looking to do the best I can and, hopefully, that will be enough to play more games in the Premier League.”
Everton find themselves at a critical juncture in their recent history. Their identity as a club is at stake. This is what Calvert-Lewin is up against. He is a leftover of Old Everton, the club that pushed its youngsters more than any other in the Premier League. Now, he must prove he belongs at New Everton.