Record-breaking Everton transfer collapse in ‘high farce’ due to ‘financial lust’
Fabrizio Ravanelli and his entourage formed perhaps the most iconic but infamous transfer delegation in Everton history when they arrived at Goodison Park on this day in 1997.
Some 25 years ago today, Fabrizio Ravanelli and his entourage formed perhaps the most iconic but infamous transfer delegation in Everton history when they turned up at Goodison Park to discuss what could have been a record switch at the time but left with the player having not signed for the Blues.
It was a tumultuous summer in 1997, Tony Blair’s ‘new’ Labour had just swept to power, complete with their D:Ream Things can only get better anthem, ending 18 years of Tory rule but the nation was unaware of the shock that would lie in wait with Princess Diana’s untimely passing on the final day of August.
Evertonians had been riding an emotional rollercoaster too having ended the previous season with Dave Watson as caretaker manager following Joe Royle’s abrupt departure on March 27 but despite chairman Peter Johnson declaring that he’d deliver a “world-class” manager, he embarked on a three month wild goose chase trying to court Bobby Robson only for the former England boss to remain at Barcelona in an ‘upstairs’ role. The Blues were then snubbed by their former fans’ favourite Andy Gray who possessed no managerial experience and chose to sign a lucrative new deal to carry on broadcasting with Sky Sports instead so Johnson finally turned to Howard Kendall, offering the club’s most-successful boss an unprecedented third spell in the hot seat.
Having already teed up a deal for West Ham United’s Slaven Bilic before the end of the previous season, the Christmas hamper magnate had also gone on record to proclaim that Everton supporters would be “pleasantly surprised” by the calibre of signings that the club would make that summer, a year later the Croatian international told the ECHO that Royle had said he would also sign Dino Baggio and Pierluigi Casiraghi with Johnson prepared to bankroll a £15million package for the duo but it would be another of their Italian compatriots who the Blues would ultimately come agonisingly close to snapping up. Even though he played in a Middlesbrough side that suffered relegation from the Premier League in 1997, Ravanelli had been a revelation in his first season in English football.
Plundering a hat-trick against Liverpool on his debut, he netted 31 goals in all competitions for the Teessiders that term, prompting Everton to make their approach after Bryan Robson’s expensively-assembled side, also featuring Brazilian pair Juninho and Emerson, went down despite reaching both domestic cup finals. Ravanelli was actually linked with a switch to Anfield during June following Stan Collymore’s exit to Aston Villa but by July 12, the ECHO reported that Ravanelli was planning to fly in to Merseyside from his home in Italy for discussions with Kendall.
Phil McNulty wrote: “It has been suggested he would say no to Everton, but his agent Alessandro Moggi said: ‘We will be talking to Everton. He’s flattered and honoured to receive this offer from such a club. He’s very excited and very keen.
“‘He wants to stay in the Premier League to prove what kind of player he is. He also wants to show just what sort of person he is after all that has been said about him in the last few months.’
“Everton boss Kendall said: ‘Ideally I would like him to come here and see for himself the facilities and the set-up that we have. I don’t think anyone can be anything other than impressed.
“‘We would have liked to have met the player, agreed the deal and had the medical and then paraded him. Unfortunately it is not that easy these days. It has come out that we have agreed a fee, but I must stress things are still at a very early stage.’”