What went wrong for Cuco Martina at Everton?
Background image: Jon Candy, CC BY-SA 2.0
Cuco Martina finds himself on the periphery at Everton - and could be on his way out of Goodison Park when the January transfer window opens.
After making 28 appearances in his debut season on Merseyside, the 30-year-old has been dropped to the U23s, with his last first-team appearance since March 2018. So, where did it go wrong?
Martina joined Everton from Southampton in 2017 and was a regular in his debut term, making 21 appearances in the Premier League, six in the Europa League and one in the FA Cup. His form left a lot to be desired, however.
The Curacao international filled in for the injured Leighton Baines at left-back, but never looked comfortable in the makeshift role and was often exposed due to his poor positioning. Martina was immediately replaced when Baines returned from injury in March 2018, and was loaned out to Stoke City (August 17, 2018 – January 30, 2019) & Feyenoord (January 31, 2019 – June 30, 2019) the following campaign.
Martina made 18 appearances in all competitions for Stoke, operating in a more familiar right-back role for the Championship outfit. He then went on to make 12 appearances for Feyenoord, alternating between right-back and centre-back in the Eredivisie.
Lucas Digne and Baines became Everton’s first and second-choice left-backs from 2018/19 onwards while Martina was exiled from the first-team and forced to play in the reserves.
Knee injury costly
Everton tried to sell the 30-year-old last summer, but a knee injury picked up on the training ground ruled out any chance of him leaving before the transfer shut. And with Seamus Coleman, Djibril Sidibe and Mason Holgate for competition at right-back, Martina stood little chance of a reprieve. Even Jonjoe Kenny was forced to join Schalke 04 on loan due to Everton having too many players vying for one place in the side.
Martina may have struggled to find a suitor regardless, as neither Stoke or Feyenoord considered turning his loan deal permanent. The out-of-favour defender is close to returning from injury, but it remains to be seen if Everton will receive any offers in January.
Overseas clubs can sign Martina on a Bosman deal as his contract expires next summer, but those who have been scouting him in recent years may turn their attention elsewhere. His form has been a problem for more than 12 months while his match fitness will be poor due to the severe lack of playing time.
There is a chance Martina will run his contract down if suitors fail to materialise, so he could remain an Everton player until July 2020. Martina will also turn 31 not long after his contract expires, so his next move may be the last of his career. Unfortunately, his stock couldn’t be lower.
Everton could mutually terminate the defender’s contract once he’s fully fit, potentially removing £35k-per-week from the wage bill. Martina may find it easier getting a new club as a free agent and Everton could cut their losses by negotiating compensation for less than his outstanding contract. The move could suit all parties.
Martina was a player Steve Walsh identified to replace Seamus Coleman during his ill-fated stint as Everton’s Director of Football, but the 30-year-old will go down as one of the Toffees’ worst signings. He’s spent the last 18 months out in the cold and even finds himself overlooked in the reserves by David Unsworth...