When James Rodriguez and Allan arrive at Goodison Park later this week, Carlo Ancelotti could be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief.
As well as a sizeable salary, it was Everton’s ambition – and the promise of funds to reinvigorate a tired squad this summer – which convinced the legendary Italian to make a surprise move to Merseyside in December of last year.
But after spending just £750,000 on a 17-year-old from League Two in January, and having added one free transfer since last season finished, there is every chance Ancelotti may have been a little concerned with the new campaign fast approaching.
Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti gestures during his side’s 3-3 pre-season draw with Blackpool
The Toffees undoubtedly improved under the former AC Milan manager’s leadership during the second half of last term, but a worrying dip in performances and results during Project Restart highlighted what a huge job he still has on his hands.
The signings of Rodriguez and Allan – two players Ancelotti knows and trusts after working with them previously – will give him a huge boost ahead of the first game against Tottenham next weekend.
However, a vast amount of work still needs to be done on the squad if Everton are to finally start giving owner Farhad Moshiri a reasonable return on his investment.
Here, Sportsmail takes a closer look at the other areas Ancelotti must fix to mount a challenge for European football – and a well overdue trophy – next season.
Captain Seamus Coleman (left) speaks to Tom Davies and Mason Holgate at Bloomfield Road
GETTING RID OF THE DEADWOOD
Arguably the biggest task at Everton this summer is shifting the players that Ancelotti doesn’t fancy, all of whom are putting pressure on an already-stretched wage budget.
Yannick Bolasie, Muhamed Besic, Sandro Ramirez and Cenk Tosun earn upwards of £250,000 a week between them, yet appear to have no future at the club.
All four have been shipped out on loan in recent seasons, but a mixture of average displays, injuries and the players themselves deciding not to accept a pay cut elsewhere has scuppered Everton’s chances of finding them new, permanent homes.
Yannick Bolasie is one of a number of big earners Everton are willing to sell this summer
The club’s director of football, Marcel Brands, is the man tasked with moving these four – and anyone else Ancelotti doesn’t want – on before the transfer window closes, but at present that is proving difficult.
Given the millions wasted by previous bosses, particularly Ronald Koeman (with the help of Steve Walsh) and Sam Allardyce, plus the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Ancelotti is unlikely to get such a big kitty and some of Everton’s business will be reliant on how much money Brands can free-up.
Thirteen players have already left Goodison – 12 of those permanently – this summer, but that number only looks set to increase, with Ancelotti also open to selling regular starters in order to build his own squad.
SORTING CENTRAL MIDFIELD
Of Everton’s problem positions, nothing comes close to the central midfield issue which emerged last season and seemed to get worse with every passing week.
With £25m summer signing Jean-Philippe Gbamin missing virtually the entire campaign through injury and fellow new boy Fabian Delph also struggling for fitness and form, the Blues were robbed of a ball-winner for much of the campaign.
Tom Davies’ development continued to stall, while Andre Gomes played too many games after a horrific ankle injury and looked far from his best without a defensive-minded partner next to him.
Everton have agreed a deal for Napoli midfielder Allan and he is expected to join this week
Gylfi Sigurdsson was often played out of position and was found wanting most weeks, with Mason Holgate – the team’s standout central defender – impressing after being moved further forward.
It’s no wonder Ancelotti made landing Allan, a tough-tackling, energetic central midfielder from his former club Napoli, his No 1 priority this summer.
The Brazilian’s arrival should go some way to fixing Everton’s midfield woes, but given the form of Davies and Gomes, and the injury problems of Gbamin and Delph, a deal for Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucoure would also make a lot of sense.
THE PICKFORD CONUNDRUM
‘I know that he is not doing well. I spoke with him. He’s not doing well. He has to be focused on himself, on his performance – day by day (he has) to try to be better.
‘I’m not so worried because he has quality. He has character but I have to say to him – and I have said to him – that he has to improve.’
Those were the words of Ancelotti when asked about Jordan Pickford following another erratic performance from his goalkeeper against Wolves in July.
The England No 1 endured a season littered with mistakes and his concentration levels were widely criticised, leading to suggestions that he could be replaced.
Everton No 1 Jordan Pickford is under pressure after making a number of mistakes last season
However, given Ancelotti’s limited budget, and the fact Everton would likely struggle to get back the £30m they paid for Pickford in 2017, that looks unlikely.
But with only the inexperienced Joao Virginia and former Huddersfield man Jonas Lossl to compete with him for the No 1 spot, a quality back-up is likely to be on the Italian’s shopping list.
Manchester United’s Sergio Romero has been linked with a move to Merseyside and would fit the bill. Plus, he should be within budget.
DECISIONS ON THE DEFENCE
Everton battled through last season with just three senior centre backs in their ranks after failing to land Kurt Zouma on a permanent deal, and found themselves stretched on more than one occasion.
The emergence of Holgate as a Premier League quality centre half was a welcome surprise, while Ancelotti appears to be a fan of Michael Keane after recently handing him a new five-year contract.
But with Yerry Mina’s injury issues persisting, Lewis Gibson set to go back out on loan and Jarrad Branthwaite, the 18-year-old signed from Carlisle in January, his fourth option, the former Real Madrid boss has a decision to make.
Youngster Jarrad Branthwaite (centre) could remain fourth choice centre back next season
Does he keep faith in that quartet or look to bring in another senior centre back? And if so, how much of the budget goes on him?
Ancelotti may also need another right-back after allowing Djibril Sidibe to return to Monaco, unless he believes Jonjoe Kenny is up to the job after enjoying a successful loan spell at Schalke. Talks over Atletico Madrid’s Santiago Arias are understood to be ongoing.
On the other side of defence, the retirement of Leighton Baines has left Lucas Digne as the only senior left-back. Youngster Niels Nkounkou, signed on a free transfer after he left Marseille, could be thrust into the first-team picture sooner than expected, while the limited transfer kitty could see Delph used there in an emergency.
WORRIES OUT WIDE
After bringing in Allan to plug a gap in central midfield, signing at least one new winger must be next on Ancelotti’s list of transfer objectives.
It may be that he sees Rodriguez, who he worked with at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, as the man to play wide, either naturally on the left or cutting in from the right, rather than as a No 10.
But even if he does, there is definitely scope to bring in another first choice wideman given the frustrating form of the current crop.
The Toffees are on the verge of completing a deal to sign James Rodriguez from Real Madrid
Alex Iwobi, Bernard and Theo Walcott all flattered to deceive for most of last season, while youngster Anthony Gordon doesn’t yet appear ready to start week in, week out despite being rewarded with a new five-year deal this week.
Richarlison is more than capable on either side, but would be better kept as a central striker alongside Dominic Calvert-Lewin, with whom he developed a strong partnership following the sacking of Silva last term.
Sigurdsson and Moise Kean have also been used wide, although it’s not natural for either one of them. A pacey winger who knows how to cross a ball simply must be a priority before the window closes.
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