Everton finally ended their summer-long chase of Steven Pienaar yesterday by snapping up the South African from Spurs on a four-year contract. The 30-year old returns to Goodison Park for a fee of £4.5m and represents a significant coup for David Moyes, after the midfielder’s dazzling performances on loan at the Merseyside club in the second half of last season:
Despite alleged interest from the likes of Sunderland and QPR, Pienaar revealed his heart was set on a move back to the Toffees after failing to establish himself at White Hart Lane. Speaking to the club’s official website upon completion of the move, he admitted:
I am happy to be here. It took a few weeks to sort out but I am delighted to be back and excited to play for Everton. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be back here. At the end of the season I told the manager how I felt and I am happy now it is all done.
Pienaar’s career began as a 17-year old in his native country with Ajax Cape Town. Over the course of a couple of seasons, he scored six times in 24 appearances before he made his way to Europe to sign for Ajax Amsterdam in the 2001/02 campaign. Although he spent five years at the Dutch giants, winning a couple of league titles along the way, Pienaar only managed more than 20+ league appearances in a couple of seasons and, after returning 15 goals and 20 assists in 94 matches, moved on to Borussia Dortmund.
The South African stayed in the Bundesliga for just one disappointing season, managing a single assist from 25 games before joining Everton on loan for the 2007-08 campaign. David Moyes made the deal a permanent one the following year and Pienaar soon became a key member of the Toffees first-team, with his left flank understanding with Leighton Baines proving crucial to his side’s attacking forays. In total, his first stint at Goodison lasted three-and-a-half years, with the midfielder returning 11 goals and 18 assists in 104 appearances before he signed for Spurs midway through the 2010/11 campaign.
At White Hart Lane, however, his career came to a complete standstill. The emergence of Gareth Bale as a Premier League force of nature meant Pienaar made just 10 appearances over his two half-seasons under Harry Redknapp, with only a couple of assists to show for his time in London. The 2011/12 campaign produced two brief sub appearances before Moyes came to the midfielder’s rescue once again and, back on Merseyside, Pienaar’s contribution was significant – four goals and seven assists in just 14 league appearances summed up his potential and will no doubt help him pick up plenty Fantasy investment in the season ahead.
In terms of game time, there is no doubt Pienaar will be a nailed-on first-team starter down the Everton left. During his time on loan last season, he started every one of the 14 league matches he was available for – the only game he missed was against parent club Spurs, just to the conditions of his temporary arrangement. Moyes is notoriously frugal when it comes to player acquisitions, so it’s safe to say the Toffees boss won’t be spending close to £5m for a bench-warmer.
Analysing the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) stats, Pienaar – despite half a dozen bookings –returned 5.7 points per game in 2011/12 at Everton. Aside from those aforementioned four goals and seven assists, his tally was also boosted by six clean sheet points and 12 bonus points, with his style of play clearly suited to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index scoring system. At 6.5 in FPL, his mid-price potential is considerable, though Everton’s customary slow start to the season may deter suitors. Pienaar also excelled in the Sky Sports game last term – he was one of only five midfielders to be awarded five or more Man of the Match awards, despite just 14 starts – priced at 6.0, he looks a very strong punt here, too, bearing in mind we only have 30 trades over the season.
While many may feel the Toffees’ first six fixtures are far from enticing, Moyes’ side showed towards the end of last season they are more than a match for any side in the top-flight. With Pienaar wreaking havoc on the flank and Nikica Jelavic racking up the goals with consummate ease, they ended the campaign on a nine-match unbeaten run, putting four past United and notching three times against Newcastle – Moyes’ men welcome both sides to Goodison in Gameweeks 1 and 4 respectively and will be far from intimidated. With a home clash against Southampton and trips to (avl, wba, swa) also on their opening agenda, the Toffees clearly have the potential to pick up the points if they can hit the ground running; while their start to recent seasons suggests that’s easier said than done, ignoring their assets entirely may well be a costly oversight.
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“I am happy with the way I’ve started, but on the other hand, I should have scored four or five more, so that’s something for me to work on.”Robin Van Persie talks about his early form at United ahead of his first Manchester derby