Barcelona and Everton were busier than usual in the last transfer window as the Toffees firstly took Lucas Digne off the Catalan club’s hands, and then followed that up by purchasing Yerry Mina and loaning Andre Gomes for a year.
All three players would surely have been grateful for a new lease of life professionally given the trio were unlikely to be seeing much playing time in the 2018/19 campaign.
That’s not necessarily to do with the level of their output or quality, more simply that there are better players in their position.
In Mina and Gomes’ case, they weren’t really the right fit stylistically for the Blaugrana either, and arguably the Premier League will suit them and Digne better.
Replacing a Club Hero
On first look, the left-back would appear to be an upgrade on Leighton Baines in certain areas, but not in others.
Baines has had a pass completion rate in the low 80s for the past three seasons, but Digne hovers around 88 to 89 percent success. In the same time period, the former’s best ratio of tackles per game is 2, whereas the Frenchman can boast as high as 2.7 tackles on average per 90 minutes.
Digne has more interceptions per game too, but where he loses out is on clearances; Baines the clear winner there. However, a feature of the youngster’s play is that he prefers to bring the ball out of defence rather than lump it clear, so that particular statistic is open to interpretation.
Attacking wise, Baines doesn’t have anywhere close to the speed of his colleague but he does have the edge in terms of the number of assists provided. They far outweigh Digne’s output at this point.
Once the Frenchman has found his feet, it will be interesting to see how often Marco Silva sticks him in. At 25, he’s eight years younger than Baines and he’s clearly been signed to take over the left-back role.
A solid tackle at Wolves on the opening day, which prevented a late chance, was greeted by cheers from the Everton faithful. In the little time he had on the pitch, he impressed, but he wasn’t even named in the squad for the Southampton game.
Gomes is a different type of player entirely and it will be at least another fortnight before Everton supporters get a chance to see their new man in action.
A hamstring injury on Barcelona’s US Tour has put him back a few weeks fitness-wise, but he’ll be ready soon enough.
Though not built for speed, he can still show a clean pair of heels if needed. Equally, he has been caught upfield on occasions, unable to get back. His strengths are his superb technical ability and his awareness, and his size and physicality are both used as an aid to complement those qualities.
The Portuguese international will have no problem in coping with the rough stuff in the Premier League and opposition players in direct combat will find him incredibly difficult to dispossess.
He’ll screen the ball expertly and he can easily hold off two defenders at once before picking the perfect pass – something he’s able to do with either foot, making him an extremely dangerous customer in those central areas.
A genuine box-to-box exponent with a great engine, he’ll drive Everton’s attack forward at every opportunity, looking to spread the play wide to either Richarlison or Walcott. Don’t rule him out at set pieces either.
Snatched from under the noses of Real Madrid, things clearly haven’t worked out for the best at Barcelona, but that shouldn’t be used as a stick to beat him with.
Everton are getting one hell of a player.
Mina is the third of the Barcelona trio to join the Toffees this summer, and at €30m, the most surprising.
It’s true that the Colombian had a wonderful World Cup, but his hiring by the Blaugrana soon became an exercise in squeezing a square peg into a round hole.
Signed six months earlier than planned, and at a premium to keep him from the clutches of other interested clubs, after some cursory initial minutes he didn’t play again for three months.
On most of those occasions, Mina didn’t even make the bench.
However, Everton fans needn’t be too worried. His skill set is far more suited to the Premier League environment, where he’ll likely be a commanding presence in the Everton back line, and a supplementary and dangerous attacker from dead ball situations.
As England found out in Russia.