Everton’s fantastic four of John Stones, Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku – all under 23 – have produced scintillating attacking football of late, but this January could decide whether they stay together or be picked apart by Europe's vultures.
At the Toffees, all four are regular starters and thriving under the management of Roberto Martinez, who awards his players plenty of game time and room to develop without being chastised for every mistake made.
The Premier League has been predictably unpredictable this season and staying put at Everton might just be the sensible option for the aforementioned quartet.
BECOME A WRITER
Do you have what it takes? Sign up today and send over your 250 word test article: https://gms.to/haveyoursay3
Leicester City sit top of the pile, Chelsea languish one point above the drop zone, both Manchester clubs have been hot and cold whilst Everton, Tottenham and Liverpool are joined by West Ham, Crystal Palace and even Watford as potential European challengers. All is not as it once was in England's top flight.
United – rumoured to be chasing Stones, Barkley and Lukaku – have spent in excess of £250 million on new players under Louis van Gaal but look anything but title challengers with lethargic displays and unconvincing results.
Would a transfer to the Red Devils be a ‘forward’ move in their careers at present? Arguably not.
After being courted by Chelsea all summer, Stones now finds himself looking down on Mourinho’s team who are in a relegation dog fight rather than challenging for top level honours. It seems unlikely he’d have been the catalyst to stop the rot or afforded the license to make mistakes in such a way he is allowed under Martinez.
Lukaku knows Chelsea all to well and it wasn’t the most fulfilling experience. The Belgian was considered too big a risk and sent on his way, whereas Everton have allowed him to develop into a top class centre-forward and become a club icon.
Summer signing Deulofeu’s form has been a revelation and a buy-back clause in his contract shows how highly Barcelona rate him, though it’s unlikely the Catalan giants see him as competition for Lionel Messi, Neymar or Luis Suarez.
Therefore, does swapping Everton to risk sitting on the bench for Arsenal, Chelsea, City or United – and still not be guaranteed any trophies – really make sense?
Stick together, alongside experienced teammates in Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Gareth Barry and Tim Howard, and they can become the spine of a superb team capable of shooting Everton to their first major trophy in 21