“Where is the creativity going to come from?”
That’s the question some Evertonians have pondered amid talk James Rodriguez will be allowed to leave Goodison Park this summer.
Of course, the Colombian was the bright spark for the Toffees last season.
In 23 Premier League games, James created eleven big chances.
In comparison, midfielders Andre Gomes, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Tom Davies, Allan together with widemen Alex Iwobi, Josh King and Bernard produced a total of nine big chances in a combined 159 appearances.
James’ influence was massive, even if he was only available for just over half of Everton’s fixtures and only Lucas Digne matched him for carving opportunities.
So, if the 30-year-old does exit, what can the Toffees do to fill the void?
Well, of course, Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes, the two big creators last campaign, are out of reach, sadly.
However, there is another South American who equalled James’ big chance tally who may be in Everton’s reach and should be on Everton’s radar.
Better still, he scored more goals and recorded more assists. What’s more, he is five years younger than James, missed only five games last time out and a professional keen on a move this summer.
That player is Matheus Pereira.
As James rifled home in Everton’s 5-2 win over West Brom last September, Pereira curled a left-footed free-kick high into the top corner for the visitors with an effort Leighton Baines and Digne would be proud of.
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Ultimately, he wasn’t able to keep the Baggies up but, finding the net eleven times and setting up another six, the Brazilian showed the Premier League stage is where he belongs and now, following West Brom’s relegation, he is ready to make the next positive step of his career.
After being left out of a pre-season friendly against Birmingham last weekend, Pereira responded to manager Valerien Ismael’s comments that the 25-year-old “isn’t committed” by taking to social media and telling his followers he felt “extremely disrespected”
“I don’t want to leave the club through the back door,” he explained, “That was never my plan or intention, quite the contrary.
“I want the club to be adequately rewarded for believing in me and supporting me for two seasons.”
"I want to leave, I want to seek new experiences but want to do this in a fair correct manner.”
If Everton can, a move for the former Sporting midfielder would be a smart one, whether James moves on or not. Pereira would be a great addition and be the creative hub the Blues require.
Of course, he is not at the supreme level of James and does not boast his big-match experience but Pereira is excellent in his own right and seemingly, based off last season’s stats, he is just as effective.
From his set-piece delivery to his vision and eye for a pass, the midfielder makes his teams tick.
During the 2020/21 campaign, Pereira struck 93 shots, that’s just under three per game while also converting all four of his penalty kicks. Five of his seven strikes which didn’t come from the spot, were hit from outside the area.
Boasting a 79.6% pass rate, he played nine through balls and put 145 crosses into the box, a great tally if you’re Dominic Calvert-Lewin wanting to be fed in front of goal.
Pereira is busy and hardworking too. He made 29 interceptions and won 15 of 26 tackles. In the air, he won 13 aerial battles.
Strong, efficient numbers and remember, all for a team that amassed just five wins and 26 points.
Pereira is ready for his next challenge and would be the perfect summer addition to Rafa Benitez’s Everton squad.
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