There are days when it is obvious why Real Madrid signed Royston Drenthe and there are times when it is evident why they have twice let him leave on loan. There are games when he is Everton's matchwinner and others when David Moyes is reluctant to risk a player who cannot be relied upon to track back. There are occasions when an ebullient exterior camouflages inner doubts.
He is Everton's resident enigma. "Without question he's up there with any eccentrics I've worked with," said the goalkeeper Tim Howard. It is hard to imagine Phil Neville, Tony Hibbert or others of Moyes' more straitlaced players sporting a gold tooth, recording a rap song or building a private nightclub in their basement. Yet Drenthe's idiosyncrasies were being relished after he propelled Everton into the FA Cup quarter-finals. There is a recognition that few others have the 24-year-old's catalytic qualities. "He's got a different attitude but we have been relying on him at times to give us a spark," Howard said. "We're not a flashy team by any stretch of the imagination, but he's got a lot of guile and craftiness."
They are allied with an explosiveness that allows the Dutchman to make an immediate impression and often renders him Moyes' chosen impact substitute. On Saturday, he was redefined as a starter, lending drama to the beginning of the game. Drenthe scored after 49 seconds, set up a second goal after six minutes and Everton's progress was assured.
A player with pace was quick to make his mark. Few are faster over short distances and when his 48-year-old manager had finished jokingly asserting he had outsprinted the winger, Moyes suggested Leighton Baines, Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka may have similar speed once into their stride; if so, an improving football team could also supply an impressive 100m-relay quartet.
After a loan stint at Hercules that culminated in relegation and a spell in the margins at Madrid, Drenthe's sense of urgency is understandable. "He just wants to play football," Howard added. Yet at Real, Drenthe asked to be omitted when suffering a crisis of confidence. "There's a bit in him where he could need a bit of loving," Moyes said thoughtfully. "He's still a young boy, trying to find his way. He's had some big moves and sometimes you're expected to swim and you're drowning because you need help around about you."
That has long been Moyes's forte, allowing players to realise unfulfilled potential. At Goodison, assistance comes in the form of competition. The January return of Steven Pienaar, borrowed from Spurs, provides Drenthe with both a rival and a role model.
"It is difficult to get in the side so Roy really needs to step up to that level," Moyes added. "I think he's seen a bit more what we've desired and needed." The wildcard in the pack is learning about Everton's incessant industry.
With Pienaar ineligible after representing Spurs in the previous two rounds, the FA Cup offers Drenthe a chance to state his case. So, too, does the departure back to the US of Landon Donovan, whose role on the right the Dutchman filled admirably against Blackpool. He is not merely playing for a place: as Drenthe's contracts in both Madrid and Merseyside expire in the summer, an extended deal may be an incentive.
A first trophy of Moyes' reign is another potential reward and Everton received the endorsement of the beaten manager. "There's no reason why they can't go on and win it, the form that they're in," Blackpool's Ian Holloway said, citing the league wins against Chelsea and Manchester City. "They've got to be in with a shout."
Man of the match Royston Drenthe (Everton)