After a week in which he failed to report for training for three days, Anthony Gordon has finally left Everton.
Newcastle United have completed a £40million deal for the winger who joined Everton at the age of 11 following his release from Liverpool.
Gordon missed three days of training this week — the first was planned but he was not given permission for the latter two — and returned to the club’s training base on Friday morning. That would prove to be his final day as an Everton player.
After reiterating his desire to leave and submitting a formal transfer request, the two clubs agreed a fee later that day.
In the end, Gordon’s final act at Goodison Park ended in sorry fashion — with the Everton academy graduate surrounded by a small number of angry fans as he left the stadium following the home defeat to bottom club Southampton.
They blocked his car in and shouted “get out of our club” and “you’re not fit to wear the shirt”.
A week later, he was left on the bench as Everton slipped to a 2-0 defeat at West Ham in Frank Lampard’s final game in charge, having suggested he did not wish to travel to London with the squad.
It was a sad conclusion to his time at Everton — where he had blossomed since breaking into the first team under Rafa Benitez during the 2021-22 season — and came just weeks after he had been expected to sign a contract extension.
Gordon, who came close to joining Chelsea in the summer, now moves to Newcastle United where he will link up with Eddie Howe.
So how will Gordon be remembered at Everton and how did it come to this?
Gordon very nearly left Everton last summer but in the end they decided they could not sell both him and Richarlison. Losing one prized asset was more than enough.
So while the Brazilian got his move to north London and a shot at the Champions League (and World Cup), Chelsea’s attempts to sign Gordon were thwarted.
It may have been a blessing. Thomas Tuchel had been the main driving force behind the bid to persuade new owner Todd Boehly to sign the Everton youngster. But just seven days after the summer transfer window closed, the German was gone.
Tuchel had been tracking Gordon for some time but his interest intensified following the opening game of the season, August’s 1-0 defeat by Chelsea at Goodison.
On the back of that game, Tuchel felt Gordon had what it takes to flourish at Stamford Bridge and pushed Boehly to explore the prospect. Chelsea’s England defender Reece James waited for Gordon after the game, asked to swap shirts, and relayed to team-mates and staff the torrid time Gordon had given him on the pitch.
At that point Gordon’s goals and dynamism saw him tipped as one of the outsiders to sneak into the England squad.
James had also been a fan of Gordon since the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge the previous season when he concluded that he was one of the best young wingers he had played against.
The overtures from west London suggested Gordon would feature in the first team straight away as part of a newly-formed front three also featuring a new centre-forward and Raheem Sterling on the left.
It was thought initially that a bid of £50million ($60m) might have been enough to seal the deal. But the longer Chelsea’s pursuit dragged on, the less Gordon’s camp thought it would happen.
Everton set a deadline for a deal to be completed which Lampard revealed after the 1-1 draw at Leeds on August 30 had already passed. Although they had drawn up a list of potential contingency options earlier in the window, by that stage it was too late to source an adequate replacement.
From west London, there was a sense the goalposts kept shifting, most likely due to a reluctance on Everton’s part to sell. Whenever an agreement between the clubs seemed close, something seemed to change at the last minute. So after Tuchel was sacked, there was maybe even some belated relief on their side.
Gordon was interested and excited about potentially playing in the Champions League — but, on that occasion, he did not try and force a move. When he told The Athletic in September he had never been “desperate” to leave, he meant it. But the bright lights of London and Europe’s premier club competition had been enticing.
The London club’s final offer is believed to have been £45million plus add-ons that were described as ‘achievable’.
However, Everton’s board were not prepared to budge. They told Tottenham Hotspur the same, when chairman Bill Kenwright met his Spurs counterpart Daniel Levy for food at Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair: they could not sell two bright young things in one window.
Fast forward five months and he has now got his move — joining Newcastle, third in the Premier League. The £40m fee is fixed and there are £5m in add-ons. Gordon was required to submit a transfer request for the deal to be agreed.
Finances are still tight at Everton because of their fraught position in relation to the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules. The initial £40m payment means £40m straight profit, which the club will regard as good business for a player who has flattered to deceive for much of this season.
Those around Gordon were aware of the change in perception from many supporters since Everton turned down that final Chelsea offer.
There was an appreciation that pictures from pre-season showing him in his checkered trousers and with newly-dyed hair may have sparked a feeling among some supporters the homegrown lad had ‘gone big time’.
Those close to him felt it was a misperception and paint a picture of a young man who leads a simple life, loves walking his dogs with his girlfriend and does not drink alcohol.
After that huge bid was turned down, expectations of Gordon rose just as perceptions among some of the Everton fans began to turn.
The goals dried up after he scored at Elland Road in August — he scored only once more, against Crystal Palace in October — but there is a feeling that part of Gordon’s struggles, along with the other forwards, were compounded by how deep Everton sit and their difficulty in getting numbers up the pitch.
Gordon even admitted his levels had dropped but some fans grew frustrated by the sense his stamina wanes after his sprints.
For England Under-21s, however, when Gordon and his team-mates usually dominate possession, this is rarely perceived to be a problem.
After failing to make the England senior World Cup squad, Gordon joined Everton for their tour of Australia.
A hat-trick against West Sydney Wanderers in the 5-1 win that concluded the trip put a smile back on his face. Gordon then flew straight from Australia to Dubai where he underwent an intensive conditioning camp with physiotherapist and trainer Chris Bowman, who also worked with top players such as Declan Rice. Sessions involved ball work, running, and ‘doggies’ (explosive running drills between cones featuring changes of direction) in the heat.
Gordon wanted to use the break smartly. His logic was to strive for the added power he gained during sessions with a personal trainer during the COVID-19 lockdowns under Carlo Ancelotti. He came back faster and stronger after that enforced break and made a big impression in training.
The feeling last month was that a breakthrough in talks over a new contract with Everton was close.
Gossip over Gordon’s supposed contract demands, reported to be more than £100,000 per week, came as a surprise. It is only 18 months since Gordon nearly joined Hamburg on loan, after all; only for a late intervention from then-manager Benitez to keep him at Goodison.
At that stage, the academy graduate was full of as-yet largely unfulfilled promise. He was a player who endured a tricky loan at Preston North End, rather than a sure-fire bet, and the terms he signed in 2020 reflected that.
Everton’s refusal to entertain high-end bids last summer suggested he was an almost-indispensable asset, yet his contract saw him lag far behind even some fringe players in terms of wages. It is widely known in recruitment circles that Everton have several players outside of the usual starting line-up on wages of around £100,000 per week.
After a season of rapid progress, a situation had arisen where Gordon was being viewed as a key player in every sense apart from when it came to his wages. Everton, meanwhile, have remained focused on cutting costs and moving towards a more sustainable business model. It all made for a tricky background for talks.
None of this — the interest, discussion over his contract talks or continued speculation — will have been easy to deal with, even for someone as confident as Gordon. Being viewed as a £40million player, whether it is a fair price tag or not, brings its own pressures and burdens.
Reaching those high standards has proven challenging, with Gordon experiencing dips along the way.
He managed one goal and no assists in his final 10 games before the World Cup break and was benched for the defeats by Leicester City and Bournemouth in November.
It just had to be him…
With his name in the headlines over a potential transfer, Anthony Gordon scores for Everton again 🔵 pic.twitter.com/9VSqTzofcH
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 30, 2022
Yet his commitment, at this stage, was never in doubt.
In the final weeks before the break, Gordon broke his hand. The advice was to rest and recover, but he played in both defeats to Bournemouth — in the Premier League and League Cup in November — as he wanted to help the team.
Ultimately, Newcastle have been able to gamble on Gordon’s potential.
Everton’s perilous position, both financially and in the league, means they can not. In the battle to avoid relegation, they need quick-fixes and sure-fire bets.
It had been important to Gordon’s camp that his exit would not happen in a toxic manner that caused lingering rancour, such as with Ross Barkley’s move to Chelsea for a knockdown fee in 2018.
Whether they avoided that after what transpired last week remains to be seen.
(Top Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)
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