JAMES McCarthy has become the most expensive Scottish-born player ever after last night completing a deadline day move from Wigan to Everton worth £13 million plus add-ons.
McCarthy, 22, who came through the ranks at Hamilton Academical, was born in Glasgow but pledged his international allegiance as a teenager to Republic of Ireland. He was courted on numerous occasions by Scotland, who hoped to persuade him to switch back to the country of his birth, but after playing at all age levels for the Republic of Ireland he ended the debate over his international future once and for all when won his first competitive senior cap against Macedonia in 2011.
McCarthy therefore becomes the most expensive footballer ever to hail from this country. Sunderland paid £12 million for Scotland striker Steven Fletcher last year, but the former Hibs man was actually born in Shrewsbury, while the Black Cats spent £9m on luring goalkeeper Craig Gordon from Hearts in 2007 - the same fee Tottenham paid for Rangers wing-back Alan Hutton in 2008.
McCarthy has now won 16 caps for the Republic of Ireland and his international manager Giovanni Trapattoni strongly advised him to make the move from Wigan - who won the FA Cup last season but were relegated to the Championship - to Premier League Everton.
The gifted midfielder will now be reunited with his Wigan manager of last season, Roberto Martinez. The pair tasted glory in May at Wembley when they upset Manchester City to lift the FA Cup and will be looking for more success at Goodison. It was Martinez who signed McCarthy from Hamilton for £1.4million in 2009.
McCarthy was not the only player to join Everton in a busy day of transfer deals. Martinez also sealed loan one-year loan deals for Romelu Lukaku (from Chelsea) and Gareth Barry (from Manchester City) while the departure of Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United enabled Martinez to match Wigan chairman Dave Whelan’s £13million valuation of McCarthy.
Fellaini completed his £27.5million move to Manchester United after a long period of speculation which included the Belgian driving to Everton’s training ground to hand in a deadline-day transfer request. Also exiting Goodison was Victor Anichebe, who has joined West Brom.
Fellaini was a cult hero at Goodison and he will be sorely missed, but the stage is set for McCarthy to become a new Everton hero as his career continues to ascend.
McCarthy went to St Margaret Mary’s School in Castlemilk and was snapped up by Hamilton as a schoolboy. He made his debut a day before his 16th birthday when he came on a sub against Queen of the South on 11 November 2006. Two months later, he became Accies’ youngest ever goalscorer when he netted in Scottish Cup defeat to Livingston.
Hamilton, then managed by Billy Reid, were promoted to the Scottish Premier League for the 2008-2009 season, and McCarthy was named the SPFA Young Player of the Year after an outstanding first season in the top-flights.
In the summer of 2009, Hamilton accepted a bid from Wigan and the youngster signed a five-year deal, making his debut as a late sub in a 5-0 defeat to Manchester United.
McCarthy signed a contract extension in August 2011, and enjoyed a bittersweet campaign in 2012-13, playing his part in Wigan’s famous FA Cup win but suffering the bitter disappointment of relegation.
‘Barmy’ transfer market
When Martinez moved to Everton to replace David Moyes it looked a matter of time before he returned to his old club to plunder their star player and so it proved, although chairman Whelan drove a hard bargain.
Whelan said: “I would never stop a footballer going up to a bigger club or to the Premier League. I know what it’s like if you stop a footballer going to the club he wants to go to; you never get the same response or loyalty out of him ever again if you stand in his way.”
Whelan admitted his valuation of the former Hamilton midfielder might sound steep to some, but not in the context of what has happened elsewhere in recent days. He said: “That does sound a lot of money, but when you look at what’s happening at present, if you look at the Premier League, it’s going mad.
“How can they pay £86million for Gareth Bale? If we go and look for somebody, they’re starting at £5million-£6million straight off. The transfer market has gone barmy.”
Trapattoni, meanwhile. believes the move to Everton will now provide a major boost to McCarthy’s international career.
McCarthy will today join up with the Republic ahead of their World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria and Trapattoni who has at times described the midfielder as “shy” on the pitch, believes exposure at a higher profile club would help to develop him further as a player.
He said: “Obviously, the more important games he plays, the more his personality will increase. I said last month I was happy because I have seen James McCarthy play with good personality on the pitch. Against Germany, against Georgia, he did very well and he has increased.
“I am sure it will be good for him to go to a more important team. With that, he can think, ‘I am an important player’ - that is important.”
Trapattoni confirmed that McCarthy had been given leave to complete a potential transfer and is hoping to see a happy man when he reports to Ireland’s Portmarnock base.
He said: “I spoke yesterday with James because at this moment, he has the opportunity to change teams. I said, ‘Okay, you stay with your club now and decide your position’ because he could be happy. A new possibility will be for him very, very important. One day more for this decision is important for him and also for us because he will come back happy after this situation.”