By agreeing contract extensions with Leighton Baines and Ross Barkley, Everton have provided the biggest hint of the growing ambition within the club. After years of selling their better players, the Blues have fought off the persistent attention of Manchester United to retain the services of Leighton Baines and in securing the long-term future of Ross Barkley, have retained the services of the biggest talent in English football.
Ever since Roberto Martinez was appointed as manager of Everton, the club have spoken positively about achieving Champions League football. The Blues did achieve a fourth place finish under previous manager, David Moyes, but the club were always fighting a financial tidal wave and although it remained a target for the club, Champions League qualification was never deemed a realistic target, or at the very least spoken openly about. But all that changed when Bill Kenwright confidently told the watching media that during his interview for the job Roberto Martinez had promised him qualification to Europe’s elite competition.
Now we all know it is easy to produce a buzz line to impress the media and supporters and Evertonians will never forget the “watch this space” interview on Sky Sports, when Kenwright promised the clubs loyal supporters a big name signing that failed to materialise. But this time, Everton seem prepared to back the manager and back the clubs ambition. To date, Martinez has received the clubs support in the transfer market. The board backed the new Everton manager in the summer, enabling him to move early in both transfer windows and on the summer deadline day they purchased James McCarthy for a significant fee and paid loan fees to Chelsea and Manchester City for Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry.
But it is not just players coming into the club when the policy appears to have changed. There now appears a genuine determination to retain the clubs best players and in doing so, ensuring that Roberto Martinez has the foundation to build the club towards challenging for the Premier League title. Everton are not cash rich and unless they receive significant investment, this is unlikely to change, but the club are very good at producing their own and have a fantastic pool of young players at the club. Mixed with the established internationals, Everton have a squad that is the envy of the majority of the Premier League and the club have signalled their intent by securing new contracts for Leighton Baines and Ross Barkley, with rumours suggesting a new deal for Seamus Coleman will not be far behind.