Everton concluded a great piece of transfer business yesterday without buying anyone new but instead signing their talented young midfielder Jack Rodwell to a long-term deal which will keep Manchester United at bay.
The Merseyside club are convinced that they have kept Rodwell at Goodison for the minimum of another year after tying him yesterday to a new five-year deal which could ultimately see him becoming one of Everton's best paid players.
Though a move from any of the other three clubs who have monitored the 19-year-old – Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea – cannot be ruled out, the prospects of manager David Moyes losing him, as he did an 18-year-old Wayne Rooney six years ago, are now highly unlikely this summer. Rodwell will not see his salary increase immediately – he will still earn around £20,000 a week next season by the terms of a deal which will see his earnings rise each year – and he clearly sees the value of sacrificing immediate financial gain in favour of more substantial first-team experience at Goodison.
The Southport-born player's decision reflects the wisdom of those who advise him – Rodwell's agent is Mick McGuire – and his own intelligence. They see the value of continuing to work with Moyes, one of the Premier League managers most inclined to take a gamble on academy graduates.
"I'm perfectly happy at the club and I'm very happy to be signing a new deal," Rodwell said yesterday. "I have enjoyed every minute of being at this club and I try not to look at speculation that much, I just try to play my best on the pitch."
Rodwell, who became the youngest player to represent the club in Europe when he came on as a substitute against AZ Alkmaar in the Uefa Cup at the age of 16 years and 284 days, only signed a five-year contract in February last year. But his touch, athleticism and sound passing skills for England Under-21s in last summer's European Championship underlined the potential of a player Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has admired for several years. Despite deploying him in central midfield, Moyes sees him ultimately as a centre-half and has likened him to Rio Ferdinand – a player he could ultimately replace when United come calling again, as seems likely if he continues his development.
"He's comfortable on the ball," Moyes said last year of his player, "and I think centre midfield is where he's best but maybe by the time he's 23 or 24 he'll be a top centre-half. He is a very good boy who wants to improve, has a lot of potential, is very conscientious and has really good composure."
Moyes has been sensitive about any media inquiries about Rodwell's future in the past few months and Everton hope that they have stemmed approaches for at least a year. Two more years at Everton would send Rodwell, who had a trial with Liverpool when he was just six, to a place among the club's highest earners, including striker Yakubu Ayegbeni and midfielder Tim Cahill, both of whom pick up around £50,000 a week. But Rodwell would already command a transfer fee of £25m and new Premier League rules stipulating that eight players in a 25-man squad for each fixture must be home-grown only heightens the appeal for potential buyers.
Rodwell said he had not taken any notice of speculation about his future and had always been committed to Everton. "It's a brilliant day for me, to sign a new five-year deal is amazing. I went on a trial at Liverpool when I was six and they asked me to come back a year later but Everton came knocking and I haven't looked back.
"I've been with Everton since I was seven and at that age you don't really think about the first team. It is only about 16 when you think you start to realise you might have a shot. To play for them is an honour, to get this contract is even better. It is flattering, obviously, because to be linked with clubs like United is an honour but I'm perfectly happy here.
"I'm not surprised [by my progression]. I've done well and although I wouldn't want to put too much pressure on myself there is a lot more to come. I'm my own player and would like to build my own game naturally. I've got my own style. The main thing is for me to become a regular and things like goals and assists will be a bonus."