Andy van der Meyde was an old school winger, a veritable box of tricks who combined mesmerising skills with unerringly accurate crosses. A product of Ajax’s famed youth academy, he first showcased his skills to a wider audience during its 2002/03 Champions League campaign, scoring the goal which knocked out Arsenal and sent the Dutch side through to the quarter finals.
At the end of the 2002/03 season he joined Inter Milan for £4 million, but failed to settle. David Moyes tried to sign him for Everton in summer 2004, but had to wait a year to complete a £2 million move for the winger.
Almost from day one, Van der Meyde seemed doomed to failure at Goodison. He arrived with a groin problem that he struggled to shake off and was injured soon after his belated debut in October 2005. Just as he seemed to be nearing full fitness, he was victim of a ludicrous sending off in the March 2006 derby match and suspended. All the while rumours seeped from the Everton dressing room of a poor attitude and a liking for the good life.
In fact, at the end of the 2005/06 season, Van der Meyde was forced to issue a public denial that he suffered from alcoholism. Then on the eve of the next campaign he was admitted to hospital with breathing problems, claiming a drink had been spiked. On his return he missed a training session and was disciplined again. Although there were no further public lapses, the rumours about ‘Shandy’ Andy would never quite go away.
Not until December did he make his first start of the 2006/07 season. There were some tantalising glimpses of his talent, but he never seemed to win Moyes over and made just a handful of further appearances over the next 30 months.
There was, however, one brief and glorious interlude at the very end of his Everton career, that perhaps made all the excess and ill discipline forgivable. Introduced as an extra time substitute in the 2009 FA Cup fourth round replay against Liverpool, with just seconds remaining he broke down the right wing and scooped a delicious far post cross to Dan Gosling, who turned his marker and curled home a glorious late winner.
That was the high point and also virtually the end of Van der Meyde’s Everton career. Although he continued to be named among the seven substitutes, he was rarely called upon and as the end of the 2008/9 season neared did not even make the bench.
It was entirely unsurprising when he was released at the end of that season and his departure was marked with a blistering attack on David Moyes. ‘Moyes is a worthless man who tried to destroy me, but he didn’t succeed,’ he said ‘You cannot write me off.’