Thursday 20 August ~
Joleon Lescott is leaving Everton very gradually in the manner of someone who is about to open his front door only to be called back inside the house for something. Each time he sets off for the door, he gets closer to it before having to turn around. Mark Hughes is parked in the street outside, revving the engine of his flash car. Every so often he catches the eye of David Moyes who is glaring back at him from behind twitching curtains. Now, however, the door is wedged open and it seems that Lescott may even be propelled through it.
After an insipid performance in the 6-1 thrashing by Arsenal on Saturday, Lescott has been dropped from Everton's first-team squad with a stern form-teacher's admonition from David Moyes: "His attitude in the past few days has been poor. He hasn't only disappointed me, he's disappointed his team-mates." Given that the result on Saturday was Everton's worst ever on an opening day, and their first home defeat by that score since 1958, supporters may feel that Moyes should have reached that conclusion about Lescott earlier in the summer. To date City have made two offers for the player, having apparently been encouraged to believe that Lescott would welcome a move, one that would more than double his wages.
Lescott finally submitted a transfer request ten days ago only to have it rebuffed by Moyes. The Everton manager then lashed out at City's "disgusting" pursuit of the player, and was further angered by Mark Hughes's comment that City were hoping to speak to "the people who ultimately make the decisions", the implication being that the Everton board could overrule their manager. Moyes has since suggested that City have sought to cause disruption at Everton in order to force through the transfer and given the impression that he will continue to face them down, saying of Lescott : "I hope this will all be sorted out, after the transfer deadline."
Moyes's public bullishness about Lescott would have played well with Everton fans if it looked as though the player was taking notice and it was helping to pull the team together, but clearly the reverse is happening. You can appreciate that Everton don't want to lose one of their best players, especially not to a team who hope to finish above them this season. But if there is ever a good time to sell someone, this is it – Lescott cost £5 million from Wolves three years ago and could now be sold for four times that amount. Everton continue to struggle to find the money to expand one of the smallest squads in the League – £20m would buy at least three new players.
Lescott is a good Premier League player, who has improved under Moyes's tutelage, but he hasn't to date looked comfortable in international football. His attitude on Saturday also suggests that he not coping at all well with the pressure he feels himself to be under. In fact if his form continues to slump, so will his value. Everton may end up with the worst of both worlds, an unsettled player playing badly who will be worth far less than he was this summer. City will continue to spend silly money for a while yet but there will never be a better time to do business with them.