Everton will have to smash their transfer record and wage structure this summer if they harbour serious aspirations of 'bridging the gap' between them and the top six sides in the Premier League, according to Michael Ball.
Blues manager Ronald Koeman and director of football Steve Walsh are intent on bolstering the squad at Goodison Park during the summer transfer window with a number of targets already identified.
The pair have an almighty task in trying to lure said targets to Goodison Park due to the whirlwind nature of the market, but Ball says the Everton hierarchy can have 'no excuses' if they do not strengthen sufficiently and believes every signing must be as good or better than midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, who has impressed since arriving on Merseyside in the January transfer window.
"A lot of teams want a lot of the same players but Everton have got to fight it out with them," Ball wrote in his column for The Liverpool Echo. "[Ronald] Koeman will have already told the board what he wants and so the pressure is on them to deliver those players; there can be no excuses and the Blues have had long enough to know what they need and in which areas of the team."
"But the emphasis has to be on quality rather than quantity and that means world-class players. You look at the quality and calmness that Morgan Schneiderlin brought to the team when he arrived in January and, for me, he has set the standard for future transfers: every new addition has to be of equal or better quality than him."
Majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri has provided Everton with some serious financial muscle since buying a 49.9% stake in the club last year. The Toffees have spent £25m on Yannick Bolasie and £20m on Schneiderlin in the last 12 months, and Ball, who plied his trade at Goodison Park for five years before joining Rangers in 2001, has called on his former club to deliver more 'marquee signings' and smash their transfer record and wage structure in their quest to join the elite.
"The supporters deserve to see marquee signings brought in and every addition has to be able to walk straight into the starting 11 – how many of the current side would get in the top four teams?" Ball added.
"And to get these players, Everton will no doubt have to smash transfer records and wage structures. It's what is required if they are going to bridge the gap."