Dominic Calvert-Lewin dilemma poses £55m Everton transfer question Kevin Thelwell has yet to answer

Naturally all football fanbases love a goalscorer, but Evertonians have always had a special relationship with their number nines, so if Dominic Calvert-Lewin does depart Goodison Park this summer then the Blues are left with a significant dilemma of how to plug the gap.

Calvert-Lewin might not be on his way to Newcastle United after the Magpies pulled out of the race to sign the 27-year-old but there remains an awkward quandary over what to do if he goes into the final 12 months of his current contract without signing a new deal as finding a reliable replacement of a similar calibre could be a real headache, especially if funds are tight.

What it could mean is a challenge for Kevin Thelwell over an issue he has yet to provide a convincing answer to and identify the right kind of forward player to flourish in Sean Dyche’s side. So far, Everton’s director of football has splashed out something in the region of £55million on various frontmen in the shape of permanent transfers for Beto, Youssef Chermiti and Neal Maupay, plus a loan move for Arnaut Danjuma, but all have them have struggled to make a significant impact to varying extents.

Last season, Beto got off to a flier by coming off the bench and netting on his Blues debut in a 2-1 Carabao Cup comeback win at Doncaster Rovers the day after signing, but it took him a dozen matches to break his duck against Premier League opposition and the focus on Calvert-Lewin’s own 23-game drought largely overlooked the fact that the Portuguese player went a dozen games himself without scoring during the team’s winless streak. Given that at £25.75million, the 26-year-old is by far the most-expensive forward player brought in by Everton to date under Thelwell, just one goal when starting over the course of the season (at home to West Ham United on March 2 in a game that earlier saw his penalty – the Blues’ first of the campaign – saved), was not a pleasing return from a recruit who had netted double figures for Udinese in Serie A in both of the previous two years.

READ MORE: Man United stance on second Jarrad Branthwaite transfer bid as Everton PSR position improves

READ MORE: Friedkin Group has already paid off £158m MSP loan that stopped 777 Partners from Everton takeover

While Beto brings a chaos factor somewhat reminiscent of Oumar Niasse that can sometimes wreak havoc among opposition defences, despite also standing an imposing 6ft 4in, his compatriot Chermiti plays a rather different kind of game and is not really a conventional target man. Rather than dominating the frontline with his aerial prowess, the Azores-born prospect relies more on the subtlety of more delicate touches but while he earned some words of encouragement from both team-mates and spectators alike late in the season, he has yet to find the net in 20 mostly cameo outings.

With Danjuma it wasn’t a case of once bitten, twice shy for Everton. Despite their initial attempts to sign the Villarreal player on loan in January being hijacked by Tottenham Hotspur as he got off the train at Crewe and turned around to head towards London, Goodison Park chiefs still saw the Dutch international as one of the more attractive options last summer and overlooked the earlier snub to come back in for him.

However, the brace of goals that Danjuma netted in South Yorkshire in the space of a week early in the season at Doncaster Rovers and Sheffield United proved to be his only strikes of the campaign. As soon as Dwight McNeil and Danjuma’s fellow loan man Jack Harrison were restored to fitness, he found it increasingly difficult to get match minutes and other than the aforementioned trip to Bramall Lane, a 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal on September 17 was the only Premier League game he completed as he didn’t feature again after going off with an ankle injury in stoppage time at Fulham on January 30, on the eve of his 27th birthday.

As for Maupay, who spent the bulk of last season on loan at Brentford, he has arguably been the biggest flop of them all. Anything but a like-for-like alternative for Calvert-Lewin, despite posting reasonable goal returns of 10, eight and eight in his previous three Premier League seasons for Brighton & Hove Albion and netting the winner at home to West Ham United in just his second match for Everton, the Frenchman looked ill at ease with the team’s tactics and ploughing a lone furrow in attack with that being his only strike in 32 outings to date.

Although the Blues have enjoyed a golden thread of centre-forwards throughout their history from Dixie Dean to Tommy Lawton, Dave Hickson, Joe Royle, Bob Latchford, Graeme Sharp, and Andy Gray, like the fortunes of the team overall, things have been tougher in the Premier League era. Even if he divides opinion, Calvert-Lewin is one of only four players in the competition’s 32-year history to have broken the 50-goal barrier for the club.

If there are still any doubters out there, the former Sheffield United man has proven them wrong. As we saw from his heroic performance against Liverpool on April 24 when he overcame both illness and injury to head home Everton’s second goal in front of the Gwladys Street to seal their first Merseyside Derby win at Goodison Park for 13-and-a-half years, he is not someone who bottles playing, he is not someone who won’t play through the pain and he’s not soft or distracted because he likes fashion.

Rather, he is someone who continues to put his body on the line for the Blues and someone who has delivered some of the most significant moments in the final years of Goodison Park. Plucked from the Blades for just £1.5million as a teenager in 2017, Calvert-Lewin has proven to be one of the most-astute purchases by the club’s first director of football Steve Walsh among all the high-profile profligacy that would later prompt wantaway majority shareholder to admit: “we have not always spent large amounts of money wisely.”

Unearthing another diamond from the rough to polish up will be tough. Dyche spoke at length on several occasions last seasons on the difficulties of finding prolific goalscorers.

David Moyes broke the club transfer record three times in less than three years to try and find himself a reliable frontman but for various reasons, James Beattie, Andrew Johnson and Ayegbeni Yakubu were unable to do the business on a long-term basis. It was only after the Scot’s 11-year tenure was over that Everton were able to snap up a worthy heir to those legends of the past in the shape of Romelu Lukaku who they would again end up breaking their transfer record on after an initial loan spell.

The prolific Belgian is one of that 50-goal Premier League quartet along with Calvert-Lewin (now on 54); Tim Cahill (56) and Duncan Ferguson (60) and remains the Blues’ all-time leading scorer in the competition on 68. Indeed, if Lukaku had ended up signing that new contract that his agent Mino Raiola claimed he was 99.9999% sure he would sign and stayed for just one more season then he’d have been on course to become just the ninth player in Everton history – and first since Graeme Sharp – to break the century barrier given that he departed for Manchester United just 13 goals shy of that milestone in 2017.

Even though the Blues ended up landing Calvert-Lewin in the same window, the then-youngster was still one for the future and not the kind of signing able to make an instant impact. Instead it was Everton’s inability to sign Olivier Giroud – who Ronald Koeman revealed they had “in the building” – that arguably ended up costing the Dutchman his job and a failure that still acts as a cautionary tale to Thelwell and Dyche now.