Evolution 2021, Part I: The Saleable Asset

Moise Kean arrived at Everton as a symbol of a new transfer strategy focused on signing hungry, young talent that could form the bedrock of a new squad. All the signs are now that he has played his last game for the Toffees as they stand to make a tidy profit on a player who, ultimately, wasn't the right fit

Lyndon Lloyd 18/05/2021 12comments  |  Jump to last

Not for the first time in recent weeks, Carlo Ancelotti has addressed the speculation around Moise Kean’s future by saying that, unless concrete moves are made by Paris Saint-Germain to sign him, he will return to Merseyside as an Everton player when his current loan deal expires.

It’s a matter-of-fact summary of the situation, of course, but it’s felt for a while now as though the Italian striker’s future lies away from Goodison Park. Sometimes, that’s just the way it goes and, thankfully, the Blues find themselves in what appears to be a win-win situation: sell him for a tidy profit; or bring back into the fold a player who will be a year older and more experienced for having played in a title-chasing team that also got as far as the last four of the Champions League.

When Everton landed Kean from Juventus in the summer of 2019, it seemed like a coup for Director of Football, Marcel Brands, a statement of intent from the club, and a symbol of a new transfer strategy focused on signing hungry, young talent that could form the bedrock of a new squad under new manager, Marco Silva.

The player himself, a rising Italy U21 star, regarded by some as “the next Mario Balotelli”, seemed overjoyed to secure a switch to the Premier League to an environment where he would get plenty more game time than was on offer at Juve, where the likes of Mario Mandžukić and Cristiano Ronaldo stood in the way of regular first-team starts.

There was also a desire on the young striker’s part to escape his home country for a while after a spike in incidences of racism from fans of some Serie A clubs and Brands’s welcome, in which he promised Kean’s mother that Everton would take care of her son, seemed to reflect that need to create a safe and nurturing environment for a player who was still very raw and inexperienced, both in terms of football and life.

Unfortunately, Kean had walked into a club that was about to descend into another period of chaos as Silva’s managerial tenure collapsed following an increasingly poor run of form and, by early December, the Portuguese had been sacked.

By that stage, the 19-year-old Kean had managed just a handful of starts and was yet to open his goalscoring account for Everton, with Silva relying on the more experienced Dominic Calvert-Lewin to lead the line in a lone-striker system yielding fewer and fewer results.

With Silva gone, Duncan Ferguson stepped in with the immediate brief of providing a lift to the squad’s morale while picking up some quick points to lift Everton out of the Bottom 3 as the search for a permanent replacement to Silva continued in the background. Understandably, the Scot also erred on the side of experience and those players he felt he could rely on but Kean would still get his opportunities off the bench, even if one of them marked the nadir of his time with the Blues.

Sent on as a substitute against Manchester United at Old Trafford with 70 minutes to go, he was dragged off himself by Ferguson in favour of Oumar Niasse 18 minutes later and the images of him trudging dejectedly down the touchline heading for the changing rooms were the first indelible signs that his much-vaunted transfer to the Premier League had quickly gone sour.

Moise Kean trudges off at Old Trafford

As potential turning points go, however, the appointment by Everton in late December of Carlo Ancelotti was arguably as good as they come for Kean. A compatriot of the teenager’s and a renowned man-manager, the feeling was that, if anyone could bring Kean on, it was the venerated Italian coach; as results picked up in early 2020 and the forward grabbed his first goal, the stars seemed to be aligning for him again.

Internal disciplinary action for breaking rules around social distancing and gathering during the Premier League’s Covid-19 shutdown offered further evidence of his immaturity while, on the field, matters weren’t helped by Everton’s deteriorating form once play resumed in empty stadiums that June.

Kean scored just once more in 2019-20 with the consolation goal in a miserable 3-1 defeat to relegated Bournemouth on the final day of the season but there was hope he could kick on in 2020-21 with new signings on board and a more positive atmosphere in what would be Ancelotti’s first full season in charge at Goodison Park.

Of course, this season has witnessed the arrival of Calvert-Lewin as a bona fide Premier League-level striker. The Yorkshireman had already had given a hint of what was to come, starting with Ferguson’s interim spell and then, once Ancelotti took over, scoring 10 times in 2½ months. He announced himself on the national stage on the opening day of 2020-21 with an excellent headed winner at Tottenham and followed that up with hat-tricks against West Bromwich Albion and West Ham in the Premier League and Carabao Cup respectively, on his way to a tally of 9 goals by early October.

That timeline in the early weeks of the campaign was an important one for Moise Kean, whose only real opportunities to shine had come in the Carabao Cup. Despite playing against League Two opposition in the form of Salford City in the second round, Kean had looked out of sorts and missed a couple of routine chances before converting a late penalty to round off a 3-0 win.

He was handed another chance in the next round at Fleetwood Town where he scored again but his demeanour betrayed a player who was not happy on Merseyside. It was no surprise, then, that on the eve of the transfer deadline, the young Italian completed a season-long loan move away from Everton to Paris Saint-German.

It was an opportunity for a fresh start in yet new surroundings that Kean grabbed with both hands. To date, he has scored 19 goals in 44 appearances, including three in the Champions League as the French giants made it to the semi-finals before being eliminated by Manchester City.

His form in France has, of course, presented Everton with an interesting dilemma, albeit one that will likely be resolved by Kean’s apparent inability to settle in England and his desire to remain with PSG. On the one hand, Brands and Ancelotti have a player whose loan spell away from the club has been an unqualified success and who would, under normal circumstances, return to Goodison ready to either pose genuine competition for Calvert-Lewin, or as a potential strike partner.

On the other, the Blues now have an asset whose value has increased by perhaps as much as 80% in the past year and whose sale could help fund much-needed player acquisitions this summer. Score one for Brands who has had his critics among fans for his recruitment policy so far.

Ultimately, given PSG’s vast financial resources, Kean’s thinly-veiled desire to remain in France, and unhappiness being in England, a permanent switch to Paris would be the tidiest outcome for all parties. Though the initial fee paid to Juventus was on the high side, the signing was a bold one with an eye on the future — be that a healthy return on the investment or the next star Everton striker — but sometimes things just don’t work out for a variety of reasons.

The Premier League is an unforgiving environment for most players but more so for a teenager in a foreign country with a language barrier and a shortage of top-level experience, so he was always going to be a long-term project. Kean hasn't given off the vibe that he is willing to wait for his chance at Goodison and there’s much to be said for how much better suited he is to a team boasting Kylian Mbappé and Neymar who can terrorise defenders, pull teams out of their shape and the create the time and space for other forwards to profit. (That's not to mention the drop-off in quality of opposition in France's top flight once you get past the top few clubs.)

Everton’s current reliance on a lone striker paired with more of an attacking wide player who can play both the centre-forward and goalscoring winger role makes for an awkward fit for a player of Moise’s profile.

Having tasted the “high life” at PSG, coming back to the unsettled Everton project was always going to be a tough sell, regardless of the manager in charge. Brands should take the money (~£35M seems realistic), reinvest it wisely, and hope that Kean doesn’t end up back in England sometime down the line as the elite striker his early pedigree suggested he could!

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Reader Comments (12)

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Ray Robinson
1 Posted 18/05/2021 at 20:41:53
Great resumé Lyndon. He may turn out to be a fantastic acquisition in monetary terms but I never saw anything in him to suggest he would ever shine at Everton. An enigma!
Brent Stephens
2 Posted 18/05/2021 at 20:54:28
Good piece. I watched the YouTube snippets (!!!) when we signed him and saw his goal scoring record, so was really hopeful. One of the biggest disappointments ever for me. Whatever the reasons for his failure initially with us, I wish him well whatever now happens. The money would be nice but I'd love to see him do it for us.
Bill Watson
3 Posted 18/05/2021 at 20:58:27
He's done reasonably well in France but once you get past the top 3 or 4 sides that league is pretty much like the Scottish Prem crap!
Barry Rathbone
4 Posted 18/05/2021 at 21:27:54
Never heard of him before he signed and wasn't impressed by his showreel he always looked on the edge of wrestling with the ball rather than mastering it. When he come on against City in Paris he had a golden opportunity to curl one into the top corner or at least hit the target but he hammered it horrendously into row z.

Hoped he would do a "Rom" and become effective despite limitations but he lacks Rom's singlemindedness. Doubtless make a living in noddy leagues because he's not essentially a bad player just not as good as he thinks he is.

Just hope we recover costs from PSG I'm not convinced we're quids in on the deal.

Ted Donnelly
5 Posted 18/05/2021 at 22:40:11
Reminds me of Paulo Wanchope. Doesn't know what he's going to do with the ball himself...never mind us!
Dale Self
6 Posted 18/05/2021 at 23:54:44
After what Carlo just said, I'll get his coat.
Bill Hawker
7 Posted 19/05/2021 at 15:18:33
I often hear over here in America how the Premier League "isn't the best league in the world." Well, that's a false statement. I can count on one hand, the number of players who struggled or did ok in other European leagues only to come to the Premier League and light it up. I can give you numerous upon numerous examples of players who did well elsewhere, came to the Premier League, couldn't cut it, and then were loaned out or sold only to resume a reasonable form.

There is no doubt that his league is the toughest in the world from top to bottom. There is no "easy day" or "home banker" during a league match as Sheffield United just recently demonstrated against us. It is rare that a player who isn't already world class comes to England and continues their upward trajectory. There is usually a bedding in period to get used to the speed and physicality of the league.

Do I think Kean could eventually succeed in the Premier League? Yes I do. Do I think a club like Everton has the time to allow players to have time to adjust to the league for the prices we are typically paying? No, no I don't. We need players who can contribute now. Occasionally we can get "one for the future" but for where we are and what we're trying to accomplish, unfortunately for players like Kean, they need to hit the ground running.

Sorry for the long rant.

Jerome Shields
8 Posted 20/05/2021 at 05:14:13
Glad Walcott is gone. He did manage his career well financially and probably will get another move to The States, making sure in the meantime he is not injured. He could have really done better football-wise, but was comfortable with his lot.

As for Kean, who wants out, he will be going for whatever they can get for him. His agent is not as good as Walcott's, his father putting his spoke in doesn't help, as does PSG's Champions League exit. He may be heading to Italy.

Anyway, as a rule, I avoid the transfer woes of mid-summer.

Tony Everan
9 Posted 20/05/2021 at 11:41:30
With Kean we had a player who was champing at the bit to play, but wasn't ready for the Premier League. He is still developing as a player and needed to adjust to the league's unforgiving nature.

Managers can't afford players learning on he job anymore there's too much pressure, hence Kean didn't get any meaningful development time. Carlo and Moise were stuck in a Catch-22.

If we get 㿔M then those 3 words, reinvest it wisely, are key to next season and our progress.

We need the very best we can possibly get attacking wise down the right-hand side. Ancelotti and Brands will have to do there best work here to get the man in. We need more goals, assists and threat. I think the right player signed will go along way to making us a more balanced and organised side.

More threat up front can alleviate stresses in midfield and defence by stretching play, making teams wary and creating more time to reorganise from attacking with pace into opposition territory.

I am excited about this right-sided forward/winger coming in as I think it will be transformational if we get it right. Names being bandied around like Bailey or Diaby shows that, if there's any truth in it, then we are on the right track with the type of player we need.

Alan J Thompson
10 Posted 20/05/2021 at 18:32:59
Should have loaned him to Brentford as they apparently do well with strikers but then he might have been distracted by the bright lights of London.
Any chance our reserve striker at Blackpool could be next season's substitute striker? Can't see the odd few minutes as sub or League Cup games will seem attractive to anybody but anybody new should at least have only the one manager to worry about.
James Flynn
11 Posted 21/05/2021 at 20:03:16
We're not "unsettled".

We're entering Part II of building a squad. Carlo and Brands have their work cut out for them and that work should include retaining Kean for at least another season.

He's on contract for another 3 seasons. He wants away? Tell him to do a "Gana" next season, instead of a "Lookman" and we'll re-look at his situation this time next year.

If he's not good enough at Everton, he won't be good enough anywhere else, anyway. He DOES have potential and, so, worth keeping for now.

Alan J Thompson
12 Posted 22/05/2021 at 18:58:42
James (#11);

I think the point may be that he has done quite well at PSG and, with the talk of Neymar or Mbappe possibly moving to Spain, they might want a replacement.

So, he has done quite well there (19 goals in 44 appearances) in both the French league and the Champions League and is it a case of why didn't he at Everton who may not qualify for any European competition – never mind Champions League.

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