When Germany won the World Cup back in 2014 it did not take Everton fans long to point out that one of their squad members was a former player.
Then just a 22-year-old starting to make a name for himself at Italian outfit Sampdoria, Shkodran Mustafi was a last minute replacement for the injured Marco Reus in Brazil.
It was just two years on from his release by Everton and Mustafi has since gone on to success with Valencia and Arsenal – even if his most recent form has belied his World Cup winning status.
Everton snapped up the young German defender from Hamburg in May 2009. Mustafi was coming off the back of an impressive display with a Germany under-17 side who had defeated their English rivals 4-0 – an England side which contained future Everton players Jose Baxter and Luke Garbutt.
Mustafi, along with countrymen Marc Andre ter-Stegen and Mario Gotze, was in fine form throughout the competition and Everton scouts clearly liked what they saw.
To the chagrin of Hamburg, Everton stole him away. The hope was that Mustafi could grow into a future first-team centre-back.
However, what followed was the ‘worst time’ of Mustafi’s career.
Mustafi played just one game for Everton, coming on as a substitute for Tony Hibbert in a Europa League defeat to Belarussian side BATE Borisov.
Speaking after an impressive debut season with Arsenal, Mustafi discussed his unhappy time at Halewood.
“To be honest at the beginning I thought I was done with England because it was really frustrating [at Everton] and probably the worst time I had as a footballer,” he told Arsenal Player, as relayed by Sports Mole.
“I didn’t want to go there again but then when it came down to making a decision to stay or leave, I thought I would only leave Valencia if I had the opportunity to go to England.”
After failing to make his impact, Mustafi decided it was time to leave. Luckily for him, he found a manager in David Moyes who cared for his development and mental well-being.
Moyes allowed Mustafi to leave in January 2012. Rather than continue to deprive the hungry defender of first-team action, in the hope he would develop into an Everton starter, the Scot allowed Mustafi to head to Sampdoria to give his fledgling career a kick-start.
Mustafi shared his gratitude to Moyes later on, telling The Daily Mail in 2016 how pleased he was with the understanding nature of Everton’s former boss. Mustafi even admitted things could have been vastly different had he not been so eager to get playing immediately.
“I told the club and David Moyes,’ he stated. “He actually said to me, ‘If you don’t want to extend your contract, it is no problem. You are a young player, we do not want to destroy your career. If you want to go you can go, even in January if you want’. I really appreciated that from Moyes.
“I might have 200 Premier League games for Everton by now but for me it was more important not to hit the wall.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Whilst some Everton fans will look at Mustafi’s form now and perhaps shrug their shoulders at his departure, it is important to remember he is a World Cup winner who once cost Arsenal a whopping £35 million.
But in the grand scheme of things, Everton’s decision to let Mustafi make his move was for the best regarding a young man who had clearly decided Merseyside was not the place to make his breakthrough.
When Mustafi looks at his World Cup winner’s medal at the end of his career, we doubt he will have many regrets.