Aaron Lennon began his career at his boyhood club, Leeds United, where he was earmarked for stardom at an early age. Lennon was raised in the Chapeltown area of the city, the son of a taxi driver, and was first spotted by scouts at a time when Leeds were challenging for the Premier League and Champions League.
In another era the lightning quick winger could have enjoyed a prolonged career at the Yorkshire club, but the financial problems that engulfed Elland Road forced him out early.
He became Leeds’s youngest first-team player at just 16 years and 129 days in 2003, but no sooner was he impressing at senior level than he was being recognised as one of the prized assets that would have to be sold.
Such were Leeds’s financial difficulties at the time that he moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2005 for just £1 million.
“He actually took a wage cut to go to Tottenham from Leeds,” his then manager at Elland Road, Kevin Blackwell, revealed following the sale. “The contract that he had was so prohibitive to Leeds – it came from the Premiership days – that there was no way we could afford to keep him.”
Lennon spent 10 years in north London, making more than 226 appearances for Spurs, where he won the League Cup and helped secure Champions League qualification. In 2006 he was among the nominees for the Professional Footballers’ Association Young Player of the Year award, losing out to Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney.
Lennon became a regular in the England squad, appearing at the World Cup in both 2006 with Sven-Goran Eriksson and 2010 under Fabio Capello.
But his Spurs career ground to a halt with the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino when it was made clear he was no longer part of the Argentine manager’s first-team plans.
Roberto Martínez signed him on loan at Everton in 2015 but, after an encouraging six months, he briefly returned to Spurs, where he was training with the younger professionals until his future could be resolved.
“People made it out to be a lot worse than it actually was,” Lennon said of the experience at White Hart Lane. “I went back in and there were a few of us who were told that we were not going to be in their plans. They told us that there were going to be sessions put on for us. I chose to train with the youth team and it went well.”
Everton returned with a bid of £4.5 million to secure Lennon but, after an inconsistent first season at Goodison Park, history seemed to repeat itself with the arrival of Ronald Koeman to replace Martínez last summer.
Lennon has rarely featured under the Dutchman, whose favoured 4-3-3 formation does not accommodate an out-and-out winger of his style.
The 30-year-old’s career has stalled again, something he admitted was a source of concern at his previous club as lack of game time could impact on his physical condition.
“I’ve been in the game a long time and I know that if you are not fit, it’s not going to help you,” he said on his arrival at Everton.
“You just have to train as hard as you can throughout the week. The motivation as a pro is to keep myself as fit as I can because if I am not, it will be no benefit.”