Such is the unprecedented nature of today’s money-go-round that it is hard to compare the £30m Everton have agreed to pay Sunderland for goalkeeper Jordan Pickford with transfer fees from previous years, but it is certainly a gamble.
Pickford is currently with England’s Under-21 squad as they prepare for their European Championships and that is testament to his talent, but with players of his age you are paying for potential – and £30m is a lot of money in that respect.
I’ve been impressed with Pickford’s agility and his shot-stopping, and he seems to be strong making saves on either side as well as getting down quickly.
He looks to have an athletic leap and be a good decision-maker too, and that is all-important for a goalkeeper of his stature – he is not as big or strong as Thibaut Courtois or David de Gea, for example – when dealing with high balls.
Pickford reminds me a bit of Hugo Lloris, in his size and qualities. However, he can’t boast anything like the experience of the Tottenham and France No1.
Lloris already had more than 150 games at the top level behind him when he joined Spurs five years ago; Pickford has only played 31 Premier League matches, in which he kept just five clean sheets – although in fairness he probably faced more shots than most.
Neville Southall was the best goalkeeper I ever played with and he spent three years as an understudy, learning the ropes, before becoming Everton’s first choice. Pickford, at 23, won’t have that buffer and will be expected to be No1 from the off.
Youth is not the issue; AC Milan have had a teenager, Gianluigi Donnarumma, in goal for the past two seasons. It’s more about having developed the mentality to deal with the criticism that goalkeepers are particularly exposed to.
I think it’s a good move from Everton, though, and shows they are willing to spend.
Every top team needs a great goalkeeper and if my old side want to progress they needed to address that position; there have been too many inconsistencies with Maarten Stekelenburg and Joel Robles.
They’re right to get business done early too, meaning Pickford will have maximum time before the new season to settle and understand exactly what Ronald Koeman demands as a manager.
Everton need a strong start to the campaign and he will have to hit the ground running, but my hunch is that he will prove a worthwhile gamble.