Friday, 3 February 2012

Peanut is back as Schillo comes full circle

A year can be a very long time in football. Just ask Steven Pienaar.
The man they call ‘Schillo’ back home in South Africa found himself in welcoming surroundings on Thursday afternoon as he faced the media at Everton’s Finch Farm training ground following his last-ditch loan move from Spurs.
A little over 12 months have passed since Harry Redknapp won the race to sign him on a four-year contract worth an estimated £16 million in total, yet Pienaar must have contemplated how things have changed since then as he made the familiar journey up the M6 the day before. Back then, the future seemed so rosy for a player who had finally lived up to the promise he showed as a youngster for Ajax Amsterdam as he prepared to join a club in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Yet despite starting in the memorable 1-0 victory against AC Milan in the San Siro, that was as it got for Pienaar in a Spurs shirt as first a persistent groin injury and then a lack of first-team opportunities finally got the better of him. But what was most revealing was hearing just how desperate he was to leave north London, with Redknapp apparently keen to hold on to the 29-year-old right up until Tuesday night’s transfer deadline.
“At first he said no, I can’t go. It was the most stressful moment,” said Pienaar at the press conference to unveil him as an Everton player for the second time.
“I had to push him to get him to say yes, and eventually it happened just 10 minutes before time.”
News of the return of the player known as ‘Peanut’ in the blue corner of Merseyside was understandably greeted with great excitement, while Bafana Bafana boss Pitso Mosimane also wasted no time giving his captain the seal of approval after a year of frustration. And with his 30th birthday looming large in just over a month’s time, there is little doubt that Pienaar needs to be playing regularly and a return to the ground where he has arguably produced the best football of his career seems to suit all parties.
Now back home in his home in Woolton in the outskirts of Liverpool that had been up for sale since his departure for London, everything appears rosy. But quite where this leaves Pienaar’s future with Spurs remains to be seen.
Details of the season-long loan have yet to emerge, although it’s unlikely Everton will have been able to finance his weekly wages of around £60,000 – meaning Redknapp’s side are paying a large slice of that figure. Unless he is prepared to take a hefty pay-cut on the remaining three years of that contract, a permanent return to Goodison Park seems impossible.
That leaves just handful of clubs who may be prepared to offer Pienaar an escape route from White Hart Lane, assuming he remains surplus to requirements on his return to north London at the end of the season. But for the player who was given his original nickname in the tough Westbury township in Johannesburg after watching Italy’s Toto Schillachi at the 1990 World Cup, it is hard to underestimate the relief he will be feelling now he finds himself back in the company of old friends in the city he now considers a second home.

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