Everton the bad guys again? Hypocrisy from Premier League and rival clubs is stunning

Lewis Dobbin does not deserve to become the poster boy for a regulatory system that is not fit for purpose.

Much has been made of his transfer from Everton to Aston Villa for a fee of around £10m - with midfielder Tim Iroegbunam moving in the opposite direction for a slightly smaller fee.

But, unsurprisingly given the ferocity of the fight for the moral high ground, much of it misses the point.

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The deals, no doubt, help two clubs move towards compliance with the Profit and Sustainability Regulations (PSR) that have turned every supporter of a Premier League club into a part-time football accountant. That may be the big story of the opening exchanges of the transfer window as clubs scramble to complete business before the end of the scrutiny period of Sunday. It has fostered an intense market at a time when most in football are typically on holiday and created a new transfer deadline day that takes place a week before most pre-seasons begin.

But it is funny how bad news follows Everton. The reason clubs are so worried about breaching the rules is because of the severity with which Everton were prosecuted under them last season - not once, but twice. The unprecedented eight points in deductions the club received as punishment plunged the Blues into a relegation fight they survived against the odds.

They also trapped Everton in a spiral of misery. A club with fragile finances was placed at risk of what would have been a catastrophic relegation. The increased risk of losing Premier League status delayed the start of transfer planning - costing a headstart that might have helped it prepare for more efficient summer business. The three places the club dropped through the deductions cost around £9m in merit payments. Two more points - which the club would have achieved had it not endured a record-breaking bad run at the height of its PSR turmoil - and that might have been £15m. Not only would this have been valuable cash for a ship being steered away from trouble, it may have prevented any financial necessity to sell Dobbin and avoided this whole sorry sideshow.

Everton hit PSR trouble because of the club’s own failings. Part of the reason the club is unable to escape that trouble is because of the failings of the system. Punishment without rehabilitation is pointless. No part of PSR is helping Everton move towards sustainability,

But what should the club do if it wants to appease regulators? Well, using the transfer market makes sense. Yet the creation of the new transfer deadline mentioned above only hinders the club further. The belief that Everton are vulnerable no doubt influenced Manchester United’s derisory bid for Jarrad Branthwaite on the day the window opened. The Red Devils clearly felt they could ruthlessly exploit the system to get a cut price deal on one of Europe’s hottest defensive prospects. They were rightly rejected and have since had no problem briefing how unreasonable Everton have been. Unreasonable indeed. How dare Everton refuse to be bullied into the sale of a future England captain on the cheap.

But what do the rules say? Well, should Everton breach for a third year in a row the Premier League will no doubt argue the club had the chance to stay within the rules when Sir Jim Ratcliffe came knocking. Yet again, it is a false economy - sustainability regulations that imply a club should lose out on potentially tens of millions of pounds all because of an arbitrary deadline that pays little heed to the realities of the summer are hardly sustainable.

So where is Everton to turn? The club with financial issues improved on the field - and lost out financially. The club with financial issues chose not to be forced into selling a star player for millions below his value - and may find that used against them.

The club with financial issues invests in youth and, wait, trouble follows them yet again.

A key point is being missed by the critics in this Iroegbunam/Dobbin switch. It can make footballing sense.

With Andre Gomes out of contract and Amadou Onana the subject of heavy interest, Everton need to strengthen in midfield. They do not have much money. In Iroegbunam they have signed an inexpensive player in a position they need, a young talent who could be developed on Merseyside and who has spent the past six months not getting anywhere near senior football with Villa. That was not set to change over this summer. Meanwhile, Dobbin will join a Champions League side that is short of wide players and may get more opportunities due to Villa’s fixture demands next season. His departure is a sad one, and the joy that greeted his first senior goal against Chelsea was so pure because he was so popular and his journey through the academy was one all supporters love to see as a possibility at their club. But his chances were limited last season and it was unlikely he would have seen a dramatic increase in exposure to the first team in this coming campaign.

The hypocrisy of the complaints - and the claims the Premier League are monitoring such deals to ensure they are not taking place to undermine its rules - is stunning. There is so much wrong with the game right now - from the top flight’s stubbornness at supporting the footballing pyramid, to the way in which bigger clubs now find it so much easier to hoard young players at the detriment of that same pyramid and sometimes those players' development, to the way the spending rules currently defining this transfer window do more to harm than good to competitiveness, integrity and sustainability.

And now this. For so long the development of young players to then sell them for profit has been lauded as best practice. Now that a useful side effect of such deals happens to be that they help clubs comply with the Premier League’s own rules, there is potentially a problem? Make sense of that.

In fact, make sense of this.

Rhian Brewster moved from Liverpool to Sheffield United in a deal worth £23.5m. He had never kicked a ball in the Premier League. That was one of countless big money deals for young players over the years that has passed by without anyone raising a concern. This weekend Lewis Dobbin moved from Everton to Villa for less than half that fee, having made 15 Premier League appearances AND scored a goal. Apparently Everton are the bad guys.