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Everton’s Great Tarkowski Business

Tarkowski has joined Everton on a four-year deal and will be looking to provide experience and stability alongside two other centre-backs in Lampard’s back three.

Everton Tarkowski Transfer

After narrowly surviving relegation, Everton have made a fairly tepid start to their summer transfer window. They have sold arguably their most important attacker in Richarlison, offloaded several high-earning veterans like Cenk Tosun and Fabian Delph, and signed just one player in James Tarkowski, who has arrived on a free transfer. It is a fairly similar trend to that of last summer when they offloaded the likes of James Rodríguez and Bernard and brought in five players – four of which were over the age of 30 and were signed on free transfers. The sole exception, now 26-year-old winger Demarai Gray, joined from Bayer Leverkusen for a fee of £1.7 million. 

This isn’t a coincidence. Everton’s free-spending ways under Farhad Moshiri have caught up to them, and it is evident that the blockbuster deals for Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Allan and more are now a thing of the past. The chickens have come home to roost.

Everton’s Financial Problems

Everton sealed their top-flight status for 2022/23 after a comeback win against Crystal Palace on the penultimate day of the season, with Burnley and Leeds fighting it out for the final spot. It was Jesse Marsch’s side who staved off the drop, as the Clarets fell to the second tier for the first time since 2015. It was previously reported that both Burnley and Leeds had written to the Premier League asking whether they intended to take action against Everton over an alleged breach of financial rules, but The Athletic have confirmed that whilst Leeds have decided against pursuing a complaint, Burnley are eager to get the top-flight to crack down on the Toffees. 

“Everton have lost £371.8 million over the last three years, raising concerns that they had breached spending rules, which could possibly have led to sanctions,” reports The Athletic. “Under the league’s financial fair play regime, clubs are only allowed to lose a maximum of £105 million over a rolling three-year period. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the league allowed clubs to treat the two affected seasons — 2019-20 and 2020-21 — as one season, with the financial result being an average of the two and the rolling period now being four years, instead of three. This helped Everton as it enabled them to use the loss they made in 2017-18 in their 2021 FFP calculation…Leeds and Burnley pointed out, however, that Everton’s pandemic-related losses were more than three times that of other similarly sized clubs. After consultations with external auditors, Everton attributed £170 million in lost revenue to the impact of COVID-19. Aston Villa, for example, put their own figure at £56 million.”

By selling Richarlison for £60 million and offloading other burdensome salaries from the wage bill, Everton have shown that they are committed to reining in their spending, as their drastic losses and ongoing financial problems have forced their hand into tightening the pursestrings. It is expected to be another summer of low-cost deals for Frank Lampard’s side, but they have nevertheless given themselves a boost in defence with the arrival of James Tarkowski. What’s more, they’ve weakened the same team that is (unsuccessfully) pushing the Premier League to take action against them for their massive losses.

Tarkowski’s Early Career

Born and raised in Manchester, Tarkowski grew up supporting Manchester United and watching his idols David Beckham and Paul Scholes on the television. The grandson of a Polish immigrant who fled to England after World War II, Tarkowski began his footballing career at Oldham Athletic before joining Blackburn Rovers’s academy at 11 years of age, where he would remain for three years until being released from the club at his own request. “It was a strain on his father, John, an electrical engineer who worked all day and then would drive him to training. He admitted later he was too ‘soft’ and he was also deemed too small,” wrote Andy Jones in The Athletic.

Tarkowski grew disenchanted with football but was convinced to continue his development by former schoolteacher John Rawlinson, who brought him to North West Counties League side Maine Road FC. Playing against opponents twice his age, the teenager regained his passion for the beautiful game and soon returned to Oldham Athletic, joining the club on a two-year scholarship. Tarkowski initially cut his teeth with the reserves before being awarded a professional contract in May 2011, although he would have to bide his time on the fringes of the first team before nailing down a starting spot during the tail-end of the 2012/13 campaign under manager Lee Johnson. He became a vital performer for the Latics, forming a rock-solid defensive partnership with Jean-Yves Moto and piquing the interest of League One side Brentford, who signed him on a three-and-a-half-year contract on January 31, 2014.

His Turbulant Time With Brentford

For the first time in his life, Tarkowski left North West England and headed for London, where he quickly became an undisputed starter at Griffin Park. Brentford would go on to finish second in League One, sealing automatic promotion to the Championship. The following season, Tarkowski played a leading role at the back as the Bees advanced to the promotion play-offs, where they would lose to Middlesbrough in the semi-finals.

After a phenomenal start to life at Brentford, Tarkowski was forced to endure a turbulent spell both on and off the pitch. Mark Warburton, who had both overseen Tarkowski’s arrival and ushered him into the starting line-up, departed the club on May 30, 2015. He was replaced by Marinus Dijkhuizen, who would last just three months until being given the boot after a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. With the Bees hovering just above the relegation zone, Lee Carsley took over, but he too endured a brief but tumultuous spell and was sacked on November 30, before being replaced by ex-Walsall manager Dean Smith.

Off the pitch, Tarkowski was dealing with far worse turmoil; his mother, Janice, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Whilst various clubs began to register an interest in signing the defender, Tarkowski had his heart set on a move to Burnley, where he could remain close to home and help take care of his family. He refused to play against Burnley in a 3-1 defeat at Griffin Park due to not being in the right mindset, and two weeks later, he joined the Clarets on a three-and-a-half-year deal.

Cements Place In Burnley Defence

As Brentford gradually rebounded under Smith to muster a 9th-place finish, Dyche’s Burnley went undefeated for the rest of the season to win the Championship title and make an immediate return to the Premier League. Tarkowski struggled for game time in his first season in England’s top flight, often being played out of position at right-back or as a defensive midfielder, but after an impressive substitute appearance against Manchester United on April 23, he was given his full Premier League debut a week later against Crystal Palace, starting in place of the injured Ben Mee as Burnley captured a 2-0 victory at Selhurst Park. The following week, he started alongside Kevin Long at Turf Moor as the Clarets ground out a 2-2 draw against West Brom, reaching the 40-point mark and all but sealing their status in next season’s Premier League campaign.

On July 3, 2017, Burnley completed the sale of Michael Keane to Everton, pocketing a club-record fee of £25 million rising to £30 million in potential add-ons. With Keane plying his trade at Goodison Park, Tarkowski quickly cemented a starting spot in defence alongside Mee, leading Burnley to a 3-2 away win against reigning Premier League champions Chelsea in the opening match of the season. That famous victory on the opening day helped paved the way for a historic season: despite scoring the sixth-fewest goals in the Premier League (36), Burnley finished seventh in the Premier League thanks to a rock-solid defence that conceded just 39 goals in 38 matches. Burnley qualified for Europe for the first time since 1967, but after brushing past Aberdeen and İstanbul Başakşehir, they were eliminated in the Europa League play-off round by Olympiacos.

His Maiden England Call-Up

Tarkowski’s performances for the Clarets earned him a maiden call-up to the England national team in March, starting in a 1-1 draw against Italy at Wembley Stadium, but while he was included in Gareth Southgate’s five-man standby list for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, he was forced to withdraw in order to undergo a hernia operation. Tarkowski began the 2018/19 season with a bang, scoring two goals in August, but it proved futile as Burnley took one point from their first five fixtures. Fresh off sealing a historic qualification to Europe, Dyche’s men were cruelly knocked down to Earth.

Burnley Refuse To Sell Their Star Defender

After being caught in the ensnares of a relegation battle, Burnley gradually found a consistent run of form, taking points off Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester United and finishing six points clear of the drop. Tarkowski’s gritty performances in the heart of defence began to attract admirers within the Premier League, with Leicester City eyeing him as a potential replacement after completing the sale of Harry Maguire to Manchester United for £80 million, making him the most expensive defender of all time. However, Burnley refused to budge from their asking price of £50 million for Tarkowski, holding firm and hanging onto their star centre back in the waning days of the summer transfer window. 

Apart from an EFL Cup fixture against Sunderland, Tarkowski played every single minute of the 2019/20 campaign, wearing the captain’s armband in the final six matches and leading the Clarets to 15 clean sheets in the league and a 10th-place finish, with Burnley equalling their single-season points record (54). He continued to attract an increasingly wider net of suitors, with both Leicester and West Ham registering interest, but the Foxes would instead sign Wesley Fofana from Saint-Étienne after balking at Burnley’s price tag. The Hammers tabled several offers for the defender rising to £30 million plus add-ons, but Burnley put their foot down for the second straight summer window and refused to part with him for less than £40 million. As his future remained up in the air, Tarkowski missed Burnley’s first four matches of the season with a “toe injury,” but returned to the side in a 3-0 loss to Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

On November 11, Tarkowski gave a revealing interview with The Telegraph, stating, “We’ve had two transfer windows now where the club have decided, for whatever reason, that whatever has been offered on the table hasn’t been enough and that’s fine because I signed a contract for four-and-a-half years. But the longer my contract runs down, I feel I gain the control of my career more than Burnley having the control of it, which is what I feel like I need right now. “There is nothing I have heard or has been put to me that makes me think there is a scenario in which I would sign a new contract at Burnley. That can change, but currently, that is the situation.”

End Of An Era At Turf Moor

He continued to provide a reliable presence in defence as Burnley avoided the drop, finishing 11 points above 18th-place Fulham. They would have no such luck the following season, however, in a season that would see Sean Dyche’s legendary spell at Turf Moor come to an end, with interim coach Mike Jackson unable to keep them in the top-flight. Ironically, the Clarets have had a busier transfer window than Everton thus far with Scott Twine, Luke McNally, Samuel Bastien, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and CJ Egan-Riley the latest additions to Vincent Kompany’s side, but they have nevertheless lost their leader in defence James Tarkowski on a free and look set to lose fellow centre back Nathan Collins to Wolves.

Significant Coup For Everton

Tarkowski, now 29, has joined Everton on a four-year deal and will be looking to provide experience and stability alongside two other centre-backs in Lampard’s back three, be that Michael Keane, Yerry Mina, Mason Holgate or Ben Godfrey. He has a pedigree and consistency that is paralleled by few center backs in the Premier League, having emerged as an indispensable defender for Sean Dyche’s plucky Clarets over the past five years and earning himself a move to a team in desperate need of a leader in central defence. For a Toffees side that has its hands tied financially, signing James Tarkowski on a free transfer is a major coup for Frank Lampard’s Everton.

Zach Lowy is the co-creator of Breaking The Lines (@BTLVid) and a freelance soccer journalist for various websites such as BET Central, Soccer Laduma and Hudl Analysis. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and is the host of the Cortalinhas podcast, a weekly podcast that discusses Portuguese football. Zach has accumulated a wealth of experience and knowledge in football and has written about various subjects for BET Central ranging from Barcelona's financial difficulties to the 'lost generation' of South Africa's Amajita class of 2009.

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