Record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson is ready to made his debut for Everton – 16 years after he first trained with the club.
A long chase finally ended in success on Wednesday when the Toffees announced the capture of the Icelandic playmaker for a fee believed to be around £45million.
Sigurdsson had made it known to Swansea at the end of last season that he wanted a new challenge, and that has brought him to the place where he first experienced Premier League football close up.
Sigurdsson was a ball boy for Everton’s 5-0 win over West Ham back in 2001, with his brother posting pictures on social media of the 27-year-old then and now.
“I got the chance to come over and train with the club for a couple of days and to be a ball boy for one of the games, which was something I really enjoyed and I’m going to remember for the rest of my life,” he said.
“Being next to the pitch in a Premier League game was incredible and that kind of gave me the feeling that this is what you want to do when you’re older.
“Of course Everton is a big club, an old club with a good history so it’s definitely something I’ve always wanted to achieve in my career.
“It’s taken a while. I’m not going to lie. It was difficult sometimes mentally to finally get this over the line but I’m finally here so I’m delighted.”
Swansea boss Paul Clement spoke warmly of Sigurdsson following his departure, with the Icelander the key figure in their Premier League survival last season.
“Me and Paul and all of the staff there we had a really good relationship and we always talked directly to one another,” he said.
“After a very difficult and a long season last year, if something would be possible for me to look somewhere else, I wanted to be open to it.”
Sigurdsson is the latest arrival in a big-spending summer for Everton, who lost star striker Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United but have brought in the likes of Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaasen, Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane.
Toffees boss Ronald Koeman has had his eye on Sigurdsson since joining the club last summer and has no doubt his squad has been significantly strengthened.
The Dutchman said: “He was from the start of last season a long time on my list and now I thought it’s possible.
“He was one of the key players to bring in to Everton and I’m really pleased and happy that finally we had that agreement, he signed a contract and he is a player of Everton.
“He can play as an offensive midfielder, behind the striker, he can play in a free role what he did most of the season at Swansea. We have different options.
“I spoke a lot of times about productivity. We had a top scorer last season and we tried to bring in players who will give productivity to the team and he’s one of those players because his record, his goals, his assists – he’s a really important player for set-pieces, and that’s what we need. I’m really confident that he will make the team stronger than it is already.”
Sigurdsson has not played a match since the end of last season but Koeman is happy to throw him straight in, although the Icelander thinks 90 minutes is currently beyond him.
“You normally start with 45 and increase it during the pre-season but I’ve been training well over the last five or six weeks since I’ve come back from holiday but I just need a few more minutes under my belt before I can play 90 minutes,” he said.
After starting their season with victory over Stoke, Everton have a very tough week, with Premier League trips to Manchester City and Chelsea sandwiching the second leg of their Europa League play-off against Hajduk Split.
Koeman said: “We will train tomorrow, he will do a test, but I’m not worried about his fitness.
“Of course you need to play games in pre-season to be really 100 per cent but his fitness is okay, he’s a good professional. We have a tough week coming up and he will be part of all the games.”
Everton won the first leg against Split 2-0 on Thursday in a match marred by crowd trouble in the away section that forced the game to be delayed for several minutes, with the players taken off the pitch.
Missiles were thrown and advertising boards kicked over as supporters surged forward, and one man was detained by Merseyside Police for pitch encroachment.