South Africa midfielder Steven Pienaar has rediscovered his best form since returning to Everton, according to Toffees captain Phil Neville.
Pienaar rejoined Everton on loan until the end of the season during the January transfer window after a frustrating year mostly spent on the substitutes’ bench at Tottenham.
The 29-year-old has made up for lost time by showing the kind of influential, energetic dislays that made him such a favourite at Goodison Park and he delivered a match-winning performance, including the opening goal, as Everton clinched a shock 2-0 victory over Chelsea on Saturday.
Neville was delighted to see Pienaar turn on the style and he is convinced his return to Merseyside is the key to his form.
“It was a great performance from Pienaar. He is obviously back doing what he does best at a club he enjoys playing at,” Neville said.
“I don’t think he realises how well thought of he is here.
“When he was at Tottenham I don’t think there was a day that went past when we didn’t speak about him.
“The combination between him and Leighton Baines on the left-hand side — there is no better combination in English football at the moment.
“He has had a good return. He was man of the match at Wigan last week and probably our best player, along with Denis [Stracqualursi] against Chelsea.”
The victory maintained Everton’s recent revival after another sluggish start to the season.
David Moyes’ side, who beat title-chasing Manchester City in their previous home game, are now unbeaten in five league matches as well as through to the FA Cup fifth round.
Neville believes the spark for that good run was provided by Moyes’ success in the transfer window.
Darron Gibson and Landon Donovan arrived early in the month before the late captures of Pienaar and striker Nikica Jelavic.
“At the training ground there is a bounce in everyone’s step, the manager is bouncing and the players are all confident,” Neville said.
“There is a real competition for places now and no-one is guaranteed a place.
“All of a sudden you are thinking we are beginning to look like a powerful squad again and that is why the performance levels have been raised.” — AFP