One of England’s brightest, one of the Netherlands’ best snapped up for £54m in the space of a few hours. This is Everton, Jim, but not as we know it. Jordan Pickford and Davy Klaassen, two highly promising players on the cusp of their prime, have arrived to directly address two major weaknesses. Efficient, ambitious, impressive: Farhad Moshiri has taken the wheel.

Everton had to deliver this summer. The few good signings Ronald Koeman has so far made had been offset with poor ones. Desperate, late attempts to sign Moussa Sissoko had made the club look amateur, not to mention terrible judges of ability. Transfer tattle was dominated by whispers of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley leaving and worse still, Wayne Rooney arriving. This time it had to be different.

The signings of Pickford and Klaassen unveil a new approach. A clear divergence from the hesitance and the haggling of the Bill Kenwright era. After decades of being too poor to afford ambition, Everton now possess the ability to plan and the financial backing to build. There will of course be headlines and memories about the £54m outlay on the same day but it’s the underlying thinking which requires attention.

New Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford punches the ball away during Sunderland's win over Hull at the KCOM Stadium.

Both deals convey a clear understanding of the team’s weaknesses. Following Tim Howard’s rapid decline, Koeman failed to forge a number one from two backups as Joel Robles and Maarten Stekelenburg each made 19 league starts. Everton average just under 50 goals conceded per season for the last three years. That had to change. Complacency and a lack of planning marked the goalkeeping department.

Koeman and Steve Walsh obviously got the message, and ended that lethargy with their decisive intervention. Pickford reported for Under-21 European Championship duty as a Sunderland player. Everton denied other clubs the chance to be convinced. The £22m up-front fee seems reasonable, so too the £8m possible add-ons, or success tax, which would make Pickford Everton’s record signing. “What price saving 12 points a season?” asked the greatest ever, Neville Southall, who presumably negotiated some pretty decent contracts over the years.

Beneficiaries of sound development

Few careers match the steady progression of Pickford’s. 29 Conference Premier games followed by 30 in League Two, 33 in League One, 24 in the Championship, and 31 in the Premier League. A 17-year-old debutant who became a regular in all of the top five leagues by 22. A representative of England at every level from 16 to 21, fledgling member of the senior squad. Bucking the trend, the system has worked perfectly for Pickford. Now Everton have made themselves beneficiaries.

As for Klaassen, he couldn’t be more welcome in Everton’s midfield. His natural talents fill enormous voids in the current side. Last season, Romelu Lukaku’s 25 goals were three more than the rest of the attack and the midfield combined. It was only two more however than Klaassen’s total of Eredvisie goals and assists in 2016/17. 14 goals, nine assists but moreover, a player who can control the game with his passing, press opponents dependably, and perform a variety of midfield roles.

Davy Klaasen celebrates one of last year's 14 Eredivisie goals for Ajax.

Like Pickford, Klaassen has packed a lot of experience into his career so far. He has made at least 36 Ajax appearances for the last four years, and has 44 European matches under his belt. Moreover, he has captained a massive club with tremendous backing and huge expectation for the last two campaigns. Klaassen may be 24 and arriving from abroad, but there is a sense he will become the driving force of Everton, a leader in the making for Koeman’s Blues.

The club’s proactive start to the summer adds credibility to talk of Burnley’s Michael Keane and Malaga’s Sandro Ramirez joining. Not only do Everton have the means, but like Pickford and Klaassen, these players fit the profile and would improve the side in precisely the way it needs to be improved. With both players highly sought, habit will urge Evertonians towards doubt but optimism is surely the appropriate response to the club’s new approach.
By Chris Smith
Follow me on Twitter @cdsmith789

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