Signed amid the frustrating summer of 2011, the loan signing of Royston Drenthe offered Evertonians real hope for the forthcoming season. The diminutive, explosive winger had once been considered among the most promising young players in Europe, signing for Real Madrid in a €14million deal after starring in the Netherlands’ successful UEFA Under-21 Championship challenge in 2007.
Drenthe was named player of the tournament then and hopes were still high four years later. Small, adroit, pacey, and with a thunderous shot, he had the talent and potential to shine at the highest level of European football. But chances were hard to come by in the Spanish capital and he laboured under several managerial changes. ‘Given few opportunities, unable to choose the right studs, a-skidding and a-sliding his way across pitches all over the country, he scored just two league goals in three seasons and, although he memorably described one of them as “fuckin’ good” before being asked if he’d mind describing it again in language that could actually get broadcast, few remembered them,’ recorded the distinguished Spanish football journalist, Sid Lowe.
There were also questions posed about his temperament and a promising loan spell with Hercules ended with Drenthe on strike, simultaneously playing villain and victim.
The move to Everton offered him some form of redemption and Moyes’s reputation for turning around the careers of gifted but wayward stars augured well. Certainly the early signs were good and there were some fine goals and no questions about his outstanding technical ability. But his temperament seemed at times to be suspect and his temper sometimes bubbled over. In an FA Cup quarter-final with Sunderland he repeatedly had to be calmed by his own team-mates before being substituted, seemingly for his own good.
That was virtually his last act in an Everton shirt. After turning up late for training one time too many he was told to stay away from the club by Moyes. This was a shame, for it coincided with Everton’s FA Cup semi-final with Liverpool, which ultimately ended in defeat. With Steven Pienaar cup-tied, how Everton could have used the inspiration of such a gifted player.