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While we anxiously await any news of incoming transfers, 32-year old midfielder Steven Pienaar confirmed yesterday that he will not be among those leaving Everton this summer. Rumors swirled that Pienaar might be interested in returning home to South Africa to finish out his career.
For a player as long-tenured and successful as Pienaar, this should generate more excitement, especially heading into a crucial season for the Toffees. The truth is, he looked his age last year, and seemed to be the one player who did not benefit from new manager Roberto Martinez’ ideas.
There are many reasons for Pienaar’s decline last season: he missed an extended period of time due to injury, his “Bainaar” partnership with Leighton Baines is no longer the focal point of Everton’s offense, and the team had more attackers comfortable playing on the ball.
Still, it can’t be denied that Pienaar just didn’t look like the same player. Never blessed with outrageous pace, he rarely looked to run at defenders last year, often opting to take one or two dribbles before passing it to the nearest available teammate. Going forward, Pienaar will have to rely even more on his clever link up play to be effective against the Premier League’s better defenses.
Perhaps of greater concern is Pienaar’s fiery demeanor. At times he lacked patience with his younger teammates last year, and as Martinez looks to blood even more youth in the upcoming campaign, can Pienaar be counted on to offer the kind of constructive criticism that helps to foster the development process?
Ultimately, it comes down to the numbers game. The club needs bodies, and Pienaar can play in any of the attacking midfield positions. He’ll have a difficult task beating out Aiden McGeady as Martinez’ first choice winger opposite Kevin Mirallas, but it’s not hard to envision Pienaar feasting on Europa League competition.