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Everton need balance as transfer target rules set

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"It doesn't matter if they are young or old, we are going to sign good players."

It's not quite as straight-forward as Carlo Ancelotti made it seem but the point he was trying to make is, nevertheless, an important one.

Everton won't invest significant sums of money in any player outside of the 20-25/26 age range and buying those, with potential and who have re-sale value is very much part of the way the club are operating under the guidance of Marcel Brands.

The idea of buying a player, for high-price, in the peak of his career is a dream that belongs in 2016.

But while the club are set on reducing the average age of their squad, there is still room for experience. There has to be. It's why the Blues tried so hard to convince Leighton Baines to extend his career by another 12 months.

And it's why we should not rule out an injection of experience this summer. Or, at the very least, why allowing anymore experienced first-team regulars to leave is unlikely to be accepted. And why those older heads will take on greater significance next season.

Everton hope they can yet persuade Baines to take up a coaching position. He is seen as a "role model" that this young crop of players need to continue learning from and a figure they had hoped they would've been able to train alongside.

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Seamus Coleman, his good friend and long-time team-mate, now stands alone as the only remaining player from a different era, a time when the football club was a different place and when, it will no doubt feel for many, standards were higher.

If not higher, then when the emphasis on what was important was different.

He wears the captain's armband but he can't shoulder the responsibility of guidance, offering advice and setting standards in training, each and everyday, by himself.

Everton need others to lead by example.

He is also, now, the oldest player in the squad. He turns 32 in October.

Baines, 35, has retired and 37-year-old Maarten Stekelenburg, seen as a positive influence among the goalkeepers, has joined Ajax.

Theo Walcott turned 31 earlier this year, Jonas Lossl too, while Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fabian Delph are both 30.

Are they leaders? Do they set the right examples, day in and day out? Are they raising the standards of those younger players around them?

We haven't been able to learn enough about Lossl to properly judge him as part of this discussion but the other three are, from what we understand, valued by Ancelotti.

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Sigurdsson, he bracketed in with Baines and Coleman as a player in the squad with the understanding to move into coaching or management. Walcott, by all accounts, is a consummate pro, while Delph - despite having missed over half of Everton's league games this season - is still talked about as a positive influence in the dressing room.

Delph, especially, was brought in for his leadership ability. Leeds United are reportedly interested in bringing him back to Elland Road, no doubt for many of the same reasons Everton bought him, but not only does the ECHO understand that his wages would be a prohibitive factor for the Championship winners, Ancelotti is only making noises about his importance.

Let's see on that one. But it doesn't stand to reason for the manager to futher strip his squad of the limited experience it has.

Consider the average age of the top four's starting XIs this season.

Liverpool's average was 27.13, Man City 27.48, United lower at 25.2 and Chelsea at 26.09 - the same as Everton.

But each of those squads relied on a clutch of players aged 30 or over. Liverpool had James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Adrian, for example.

City, Fernandinho, David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Kyle Walker. The revamping of United's squad has seen an upturn in the fortunes of 31-year-old Nemanja Matic and the need to loan 31-year-old Odion Igalho.

Chelsea, too, have been indebted to the goals of Olivier Giroud, 33, and Willian, 31, certainly since the re-start, while 38-year-old Willy Caballero has stepped into the breach as Kepa has wobbled in goal.

Look, the average age of teams are just a snapshot in time and with the core of Everton's squad still expected to be at the club next season, those key players will be a year older, wiser and - hopefully - better.

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And the comparison with the top four club does not, and cannot, distract from the very clear and pressing need to create a vibrant and younger squad at Goodison but, rather, highlight why that sprinkling of experience, that small group of seasoned pros remains important.

Baines has gone, Coleman is left and the supporting cast need to help fill the void. Maybe a new signing will help in this regard, just don't expect Everton to be prepared to pay anything like big money to sign him.

This is where Brands may have to get creative.


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