EVERTON loan star Royston Drenthe has revealed he turned down the chance to play Champions League football with Benfica to sign for the Toffees.
The Dutch midfielder was coveted by some of Europe’s top clubs after falling out of favour at Real Madrid, but spurned them because he is so confident he can thrive in the Premier League.
Drenthe is unlikely to be fit to start against Aston Villa at Goodison on Saturday, after not featuring in any of the Spanish giant’s pre-season games.
But, alongside fellow transfer deadline day signing Denis Stracqualursi, Drenthe, 24, is enjoying his early taste of life on Merseyside.
He said: “Real wanted me to go to Benfica or Porto, teams like that, because they were prepared to pay a lot of money but I did not want to go.
“When my agent told me I could sign for Everton I was like ‘Thank you God’.
“The first time I spoke to the manager (Moyes) here there was a lot of confidence, and I was talking to the players and they were talking to me.
“For me at a new club you have to bed in by yourself. If you just sit there and say nothing it’s harder to come into the group. But you make a joke with them and it gets easier.
“At the moment we’ve just been training hard. I haven’t played any pre-season games, only training in the gym all summer with people like Lassana Diarra and Gago.
“The manager wants me to be prepared, and to figure not for this game but probably the game after that (Wigan).
“For the game coming on Saturday I think I have still got to be a bit stronger. I just have to be patient.”
Stracqualursi, though, is more likely to be involved against Aston Villa, who are themselves sweating on the fitness of striker Darren Bent.
David Moyes has lost forward Victor Anichebe to a groin injury sustained on international duty with Nigeria last weekend, and with question marks remaining over Louis Saha’s fitness, could fast-track the Argentinean into the first-team.
Fortunately, the 23-year-old is confident he can offer Everton’s attack a new dimension.
He said: “I’ve seen Everton play and I’m aware they like to have a reference point to play the ball up to, a traditional number nine, and on a personal level I like to play with my back to goal, I like the ball in the air and I like the physical aspect of the game.
“I like to get stuck in. Maybe that style of play might suit me.
“But however well a centre-forward does outside the area, his main objective is to score goals and I like to think of myself as a goalscorer as well and I think that’s ultimately how centre-forwards are judged.”
Although the forward’s switch from Tigre to Everton last week was last-minute, David Moyes has done his homework.
“It was three months ago when I first heard of Everton’s interest,” he says. “I was aware that they had sent one or two scouts to watch a game then they came to watch me at a training session as well. I had a chat with one of them after the training session and immediately got in touch with my agent and I told him I was really interested in Everton.
“There was interest from elsewhere in Europe – quite a few Italian teams, one or two clubs in Germany, but once I heard about Everton’s interest that was where I wanted to come.
“It’s always been an ambition to play in English football. I knew it was a very good standard of football, but from what I’ve seen so far I was wrong. It’s excellent. It’s even better than I thought.”