Phil Smith: Pickford will become world class at Everton, but where should Sunderland go next?

Pickford can become a world class goalkeeper at Everton
Pickford can become a world class goalkeeper at Everton
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Reaction to the fee for Jordan Pickford, thought to be around £25 million up front with £5 million in various add-ons, has predictably been one of shock and derision.

That is, from those who clearly have not had the pleasure of watching the 23-year-old’s prodigious talent in the flesh very often.

£30 million for any player of that age is a gamble, certainly for a goalkeeper with just one full Premier League season behind him. True, too, that the fee seems outrageously inflated when set against the £19 million Bayern Munich paid for Manuel Neuer, the £12.6 million Atletico Madrid paid for Jan Oblak, the £18 million Manchester United paid for David de Gea.

A better question, however, is to ask what those goalkeepers would go for if they were sold tomorrow.

In excess of £60 million, in some cases far more.

So Sunderland, and Everton, value Pickford as an already a superb goalkeeper who could join the elite in the coming years. That would ring true for anyone who has seen him, whether it be at the Stadium of Light, Preston, or in the England youth sides.

Everton seems to be the perfect place for the player himself to develop, providing there is no late bolter for his signature once the European Championships have concluded.

At an excellent, family club, Pickford would start the season as number one, far from certain at the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United. Away from the ferocious pressure of the top six, he should have the space to develop his game, to build on the already impressive command of his area and shot-stopping.

To refine the rough edges of his unique and at times breathtaking distribution, the speed and trajectory with which he can kick out of hand sure to become one of the Premier League’s most impressive counter-attacking weapons.

With Joe Hart’s future and form uncertain, there is every chance Pickford can make a break for a spot in England’s World Cup side.

Everton get a special talent, already good enough to make his mark and with potentially fifteen excellent seasons to come.

If their fans are a little sceptical now, perhaps on the back of his display at Goodison Park earlier this season, Pickford shaky as he made his return from injury, they will not be for long.

For Sunderland, the big question is what comes next.

To land this fee on the back of relegation is an impressive achievement and worthy of praise.

That is, so long as some of the money can be used to make much needed improvements to a squad that currently looks in no shape to take on the Championship, especially in attack where goals and speed look in short supply.

The Black Cats will now have to decide whether to replace Pickford directly, or try and convince Vito Mannone to stay at the club and be the number one next season.

In that scenario, the likes of Max Stryjek, Oliver Pain and James Talbot could perhaps then push to be the number two and battle for cup appearances.

It is desperately sad to see such a magnificent, local talent leave so soon in his development.

It should at least, however, be a deal that benefits all parties, if the Black Cats can find a way to use some of the money and use it wisely.