The squad Jack could build
Homegrown talents generate an added excitement. The assumption of ingrained loyalty means these are the footballers fans can identify with. The promise their ability offers means they are the men around whom managers can plan long-term. Tomorrow can seem the consolation when today disappoints.
It is, therefore, anathema to suggest the future may be brighter without the local prodigy, yet that might prove the unappealing conclusion Everton will reach. Jack Rodwell is the most gifted player produced at Goodison Park since Wayne Rooney. He is also David Moyes' best chance of the sort of windfall that would enable him to overhaul his side. It puts the Scot in an unenviable position, pitting his idealism and his fierce pride in all things Everton against the pragmatic recognition of his club's financial position.
Bill Kenwright's lengthy quest to find investment has not succeeded. That means it can only be generated internally and, with Phil Jagielka and Mikel Arteta having signed long-term contracts and much of Moyes' squad approaching or past their 30th birthdays, there are few routes to a sizeable budget.
The preferred approach would be to sell Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, the £10 million misfit whose wonderful left foot is negated by the doubts about the other elements of his game. Johnny Heitinga has had a stop-start season amid suspicions the World Cup finalist is unsettled while Marouane Fellaini has been of interest to Chelsea before. The Belgian can veer between barnstorming brilliance and infuriating ineffectiveness but he remains part of Moyes' first-choice team.
The same cannot be said for Rodwell. For all his abundant ability, the 20-year-old is more of an asset on the balance sheet than the playing field at the moment. A season interrupted by ankle problems has probably reached its premature end after a mere ten league starts. A mooted price of anything from £15 million to £25 million would be ample compensation for his present endeavours.
The value lies in his potential. Along with Jack Wilshere and Josh McEachran, it is easy to envisage Rodwell forming the cornerstone of England's midfield for years to come. If that is not the case, it may be because the Merseysider, long compared to Rio Ferdinand, has evolved into an elegant, ball-playing central defender.
That versatility and his youth explain why he is the likeliest Evertonian to generate a bid. Like Rooney before him, he is the object of covetous glances from Old Trafford. Once a Blue, always a target for Sir Alex Ferguson, perhaps, but the combination of his willingness to spend on emerging players and Rodwell's particularly well-taken goal against Manchester United in February 2010 suggests a move along the East Lancs Road.
The precedent may depress Evertonians, but it should also encourage them. Much as Rooney's exit seven years ago illustrated that lifelong support did not blind him to the fact that he could not realise his ambitions at Goodison Park, Everton reaped a double benefit from his sale. The season he left, Moyes' men finished fourth - perhaps a proof of the manager's ability to rally the team in unprepossessing circumstances - and the money allowed for an extensive revamp, leaving a legacy that lasts until today.
Tim Cahill signed just before Rooney left and some of the proceeds were spent on Arteta and Phil Neville. While other recruits like Per Kroldrup and James Beattie failed - and it is worth pointing out that now, unlike then, Moyes' budget is so small he has no margin for error - the fees recouped had a knock-on effect: the striker left for Sheffield United as Phil Jagielka made the opposite journey while the Dane's departure helped fund the signing of Joleon Lescott. He, in turn, was sold for £22 million, which allowed for the purchase of Heitinga, Bilyaletdinov and Sylvain Distin. Indirectly, Rooney funded most of Everton's transfer activity for five years.
Moreover, his impact was sporadic at Goodison Park. While his superlative first Premier League goal against Arsenal remains lodged in the memory - much as Rodwell gliding through the United defence last season does - Everton achieved most success with the teenager as the impact substitute and Kevin Campbell partnering Tomasz Radzinski in attack. It sounds strange now just as, in years to come, it may appear unusual that Moyes often deployed Rodwell from the bench and, on occasions, picked him on the right of midfield just to get him in the side.
The Scot deems Rodwell an attacking central midfielder now. Yet, if Cahill, Arteta and Fellaini are all available, it is impossible to accommodate him in the middle of the pitch. Moreover, in the Belgian's frequent absences, he often prefers to use Neville or Heitinga to provide the steel alongside Arteta's silk. A reluctance to select Rodwell in defence, where Heitinga and even Tony Hibbert provide understudies to Distin and Jagielka, mean he is often confined to the sidelines. At the moment, he is a deluxe bit-part player.
Moyes has been predictably defiant in insisting he doesn't want to sell Rodwell and, in an ideal world, he wouldn't. Though the England Under-21 international has been on the fringes recently, he has talked about building a team around this particular Jack the lad. Instead, he could buy much of a team because of him.