Goodison Park was rocking under their famous floodlights after Steven Naismith put Everton FC within touching distance of Chelsea once more.
So much so, the arrival of Samuel Eto’o was simply greeted with an extension of the roar which greeted Naismith’s goal; the icing on top of the cake.
It wasn’t quite bundling him through the back door of the Gwladys Street, but this was not the pomp and ceremony associated with a signing of such stature.
No drum roll, no big announcement, no parade on the pitch at half time with scarf held aloft. Just a new signing coming on to help his side in their pursuit of an equaliser.
Perhaps that was intentional from Roberto Martinez. Perhaps, despite everything Eto’o has won as a player – emphasis very much on the word everything – Martinez wanted to show how he was simply part of the team with no special treatment.
Or perhaps the Spaniard simply wanted a goal – something the striker delivered within six minutes of his arrival.
Regardless, Eto’o is a player who commands respect. And while he didn’t enter Goodison being carried in a sedan chair, his list of career achievements, as long as County Road, deserve respect.
Three La Liga titles, one Serie A title, three Champions League trophies, two African Cup of Nations wins, four-time African Player of the Year and even an Olympic gold medallist.
And that’s simply what sits in his top drawer. There’s also the goals, the international caps and other personal accolades.
Though it is something the Blues would be keen to play down, the inevitable question must be asked: is this the biggest signing Everton have ever made?
Some will point to the Cameroonian’s age – 33 – as a reason against that. Some will argue how, no matter how bright his star was, his reputation has now dimmed.
Others will reference how he has spent the past three years of his career – firstly as an expensive trinket for Dagestan billionaire Suleyman Kerimov at Anzhi, before becoming a verbal punchbag for Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.
There is no real formula to determining who Everton’s biggest ever signing is; it is a subjective topic, one which would elicit 10 different answers from 10 different people.
But it is worth consideration.
If cost is important, then Tony Kay must be reckoned with. After nearly 200 games at Sheffield Wednesday and a huge reputation at left half, Kay became Britain’s most expensive footballer when the Blues paid £60,000 in December 1962, one of the first of Sir John Moores’ Mersey Millionaires.
Over a decade later, the Blues broke the British transfer record for Birmingham City striker Bob Latchford, paying a fee of £350,000. However, with the Blues finishing seventh in 1973/74 and Birmingham just staving off relegation, it was less of a coup and more an inevitability.
There was also Tony Cottee, who became the most expensive player signed by a British club in August 1988 following his £2.2m deal from West Ham – but again, the Hammers were in the lower regions of the top flight, and his record of 93 goals in 212 games would suggest he was always going to move to a bigger club.
Eto’o was a free transfer, but he came from a side who finished third in the Premier League and were beaten semi-finalists in the Champions League – a much higher calibre of club than the aforementioned trio, with respect to David Blunkett, Jasper Carrott, Trevor Brooking et al.
If it’s calibre of club that counts, then Andrei Kanchelskis’ move from Manchester United ranks highly. Having played for Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk, the Soviet winger moved to Manchester and was part of the side who began to dominate English football.
The fee of £5m was also the Blues’ highest at the time; likewise, his style of play as a marauding, exciting, exotic winger, added to his allure.
Eto’o is no longer exotic after being beamed into millions of homes following increased coverage of European football. His move to Chelsea was his first in English football, but it didn’t feel like it with his time at Barcelona and Inter Milan well-documented.
Of course, in terms of highest-profile, Eto’o is in the top echelon, jostling with Paul Gascoigne and David Ginola for that particular accolade.
Gascoigne was an icon and even though his hair had become an alarming tinge of white and he could no longer shimmy with ease, this was still Paul Gascoigne – 57 caps, 10 goals and countless memories – at Everton.
Likewise, David Ginola was one of the decade’s most recognisable players – even if that decade was the 1990s and he was signed in 2002. He didn’t have as many international caps as Gascoigne, mainly because of personal disputes, and he didn’t play at the World Cup.
But despite his thinning and greying hair and his tummy had become more portly, this was still David Ginola at Goodison Park.
The signing of Daniel Amokachi is also one of the Blues’ biggest. Not only was he a star at World Cup 1994 with Nigeria and had played Champions League football with Club Brugge (he was actually the first player to score in the revamped competition), but he was a black, African striker coming to a club who had been unfairly accused in some quarters of having a minority of racist fans.
Amokachi became just the second black player after Cliff Marshall to play for the club. While race should never be considered as a determining factor, 1994 was a different time and it was a big moment for one of England’s biggest clubs.
Where Eto’o stands amongst all these players is for debate.
He has the trophies, both as an individual and as part of a team; he has played for Barcelona and Inter Milan, winning the Champions League with both, as well as Chelsea.
He also comes not as a symbol of how the club is on the decline – Gascoigne and Ginola went hand-in-hand with that – but instead of how they are in the ascendancy and can attract a player of such quality.
And although there is no deeper meaning to his signing as there was with Amokachi, it does – much like Romelu Lukaku – point to the rise of Everton under Martinez and the reputation the ‘School of Science’ now has once more.
Indeed, at £28m and with experience in the Champions League and World Cup, Lukaku himself could be considered alongside Eto’o, especially in terms of making statements.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest Eto’o is one the biggest signings in Everton’s history, if not the biggest. Yet there is even more to say it won’t be long until he’s usurped, either.
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