May 042014

…says club must strengthen if they are to flourish on a number of fronts

Phil Jagielka has hailed Everton’s “exciting” return to European action next season – providing they can either keep or replace their clutch of loan stars.

The Blues are practically guaranteed a fifth-place finish after the weekend’s results, despite seeing their slim hopes of the top four ended after a 3-2 defeat by Manchester City .

It means Roberto Martinez’s men will return to the continent in next season’s Europa League, for the first time since the 2009/10 campaign.

And skipper Jagielka, who made his comeback from injury on Saturday, said he welcomes the challenge but believes the club must strengthen if they are to flourish on a number of fronts.

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He said: “We’d need to replace Gareth (Barry), Rom (Lukaku) and Gerard (Deulofeu) if they move on. We can’t flourish otherwise.

“It’s difficult to bring in players of the same quality but that’s the manager’s job.

“We’ll be the first to thank the lads if they decide either not to extend their loans or against coming back next season. We’ll thank them for what they’ve done because we knew that was the situation when we signed them; that we maybe only had them for a season.

“So now we need to unearth a few more gems or twist people’s arms to get them to stay next season.

“I think with the squad we’ve got, we wouldn’t accept performing well in one competition and being disastrous in the other one. That’s the type of lads we are.

“And with the right people coming in over the summer, and a bit more depth to the squad, it’s an exciting time for us.”

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Along with their loan trio, Everton brought in Joel Robles, Arouna Kone, Antolin Alcaraz and James McCarthy last summer, and Jagielka believes the club can compete for a top- four spot again next term if Martinez’s trawl of the transfer market is equally productive this time.

“I’ve seen enough to suggest we could challenge for top four again next season but then it’s the same again, it’s the whole question of how we do in the transfer market; in terms of keeping hold of our players and bringing in a few,” he said.

“We had a good summer transfer window last year with the loan signings and it’s important the manager is just as active before the start of the season to keep the buzz going. We’ll be in an extra competition next year so we need strengthening just to cope with the rigours of playing twice a week.”

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Jagielka believes the club can compete in the transfer market, but he is realistic about the restraints on spending in comparison to other clubs in the top flight.

“We’re not a club that has a bottomless pit of money,” he said. “We can’t get all the sponsors in and go and spend £100m year in year out. We’ve got a budget, and the fact of the matter is that if we’d tried to buy Rom, it may have been £15 or £20m.We may have been able to afford that.

“Gerry (Deulofeu), I don’t think they’d have sold him. Gareth we probably could have bought for £2m or £3m, so the players we brought in on loan weren’t massively out of our reach but I think to be able to build season upon season, we’d probably have to sell a player like we did with Felli. You have to sell someone for £25m to fund a few signings.

“The club is in a pretty healthy sate but we know we can’t go and spend £50/£60m every transfer window to be as strong, on paper at least, as some of the other teams in the league.”

The England international’s focus will soon switch to Brazil, where he is hoping to be one of Roy Hodgson’s first-choice central defenders this summer, but beyond that he insists his club manager is well-placed to guide the Toffees  through a congested season of fixtures next term.

“Obviously the weeks do become a bit longer but if you’re playing in most of the games then it doesn’t matter, you can’t play in enough games,” he said.

“It’s when you’re not getting much game time that it becomes a little more frustrating travelling all over Europe.

“The way the manager is, I think he’ll deal with it very well as regards the squad and he’ll plan ahead for what players will play in what games. He knows he’ll need a few more players in and I think he’ll be the man to be able to balance Premier League football and Europa League.

“If you speak to the fans they love it; their nights out, the football, just the whole experience. The players like it too.”

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