New Everton manager Roberto Martinez is confident he can retain the club’s in-demand stars so they can help him fulfil his dream of qualifying for the Champions League.
The Spaniard, who was unveiled yesterday after signing a four-year contract, believes there should be a place for the Toffees among Europe’s elite.
And, while chairman Bill Kenwright raised the stakes minutes into the 39-year-old’s presentation as David Moyes’ successor by claiming Martinez had pledged to get them into the top four, the reality from the new Blues manager was slightly more pragmatic.
He sees it as a long-term vision to which the club needs to aspire, but he knows his best chance of doing that is holding on to the likes of midfielder Marouane Fellaini – who has a £24million release clause and has been widely tipped to leave this summer – and England left-back Leighton Baines, who has been linked with a reunion with former manager Moyes at Manchester United.
“I can’t wait to speak with the players and get to work with them because I feel really excited working with these players,” Martinez said.
“It is not persuading anyone. In the game when you are successful – and Everton were clearly successful last season – you will always get good performers who attract interest from other clubs.
“That not only happens here, it happens at every football club in the land and abroad so we’re not worried about that.
“What we want is the players that are here feel really appreciated and important for the next project and that is all I am focused on.
“If we get players who can move on that is normal in the game but clearly we need to invest and bring players in which will allow us to start next season with a stronger side than ended the campaign and that is always the aim in any club.”
Kenwright has already promised to back his new manager as best he can financially this summer.
“I’ll give him a few quid to spend. The others are not for sale. We don’t want them to go, they have worked massively hard for this club,” he said..
“Roberto doesn’t want them to go, he has all their numbers and he will be on the phone asking them not to go.
“Not one person has even half-indicated they want to go. I am confident that squad, plus some Roberto signings, will form this club’s squad for next season.”
That squad, according to Martinez, should be aiming to bridge the gap from their sixth-placed finish this season to Champions League qualification.
He does not expect them to make that leap instantaneously – or even in the next couple of years. But he does want them to aspire to it.
“It is a bit more of a long-term ambition of the club,” said the Spaniard, who left Wigan after winning the FA Cup but seeing the club relegated after eight seasons in the top flight.
“Everton has an incredible history and tradition and the work David Moyes has done has laid a platform where, in the next few years, we should be dreaming of getting to the Champions League.
“There are six clubs [both Manchester sides, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool] who are working at a different finance level to the others but I believe, with our tools and our genetic make-up in the club, we can find a way to compete with those teams.
“That has to be the aim for the future. It doesn’t mean next season, in two seasons’ time – it has to be the dream of every Evertonian.
“Where we are now is making sure we are really strong and carry on the work David Moyes did over the last 11 years, making sure we don’t drop those standards.
“I am not saying it is a realistic target, that has to be the dream.
“In any club you need to be moved by an ambition and in football if you don’t have dreams you will never achieve anything.
“It is important we set that clearly without expecting that to be a target straightaway.
“What Everton achieved last season was incredible. They had no right to finish top six and for them to break into that top six speaks incredibly of the job David Moyes did.”