Just a season and a half ago, Johnny Heitinga was Everton’s player of the year and was fully established as Everton’s number one centre back. He was playing so well that when the Blues faced Liverpool in the FA Cup semi final David Moyes preferred the Dutchman to Phil Jagielka, with the now Everton captain left on the subs bench.
Fast forward 18 months and Heitinga appears further away from the team that at any point in his time on Merseyside. Currently injured, the Dutch World Cup finalist has not started a league game since Roberto Martinez took charge of Everton in the summer. His only football this season has been in the Capital One Cup, starting both games Everton played in this seasons competition, however when he has played he has featured in midfield rather than in his preferred centre back position.
Over the last 12 months, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin have cemented their places as Everton’s first choice centre back pairing and the emergence of young talent John Stones has pushed Heitinga further down the pecking order. Without significant injury, and we all have our fingers crossed that doesn’t happen, it is hard to see where Heitinga’s next game in an Everton shirt is likely to come.
The Dutch international is in his final season of his Everton contract and unless their is a dramatic change of fortune he is unlikely to remain at Goodison Park beyond the summer. There has been rumours during the last two transfer windows that Everton were willing to listen to offers for the former Ajax and Atletico Madrid player but for one reason or another a deal has failed to materialise. With his family now spending the majority of their time in his native Amsterdam, a return to Holland looks like Heitinga’s preferred option.
As a player Heitinga has served Everton well and for those with slightly longer memories he will be remembered fondly. If Heitinga is not to play for Everton again we wish him all the best for the future.