Nikola Vlašić impressed during Hajduk Split's two-legged Europa League playoff tie with the Toffees in August 2017
and was the last signing to arrive at Finch Farm before the transfer deadline that month.
A former target of Arsenal and Chelsea, Vlašić was reported to have
turned down a move to the Premier League in 2016 to remain in Croatia and
support his sister Blanka's preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games. He was apparently watched closely by AC Milan but Everton beat off the competition to sign him.
An attacking midfielder who can operate across the forward line, Vlašić had made 87 league appearances and scored 11 goals for Hajduk since breaking into their team three years ago and earned his first cap for his country's senior team in 2017.
Under the terms of the deal with Everton, Hajduk would be due a further £925,000 if certain appearance-related clauses are met, plus 10% of any sell-on fee for the Croatian.
"Nikola is one of those players who can play a big part in Everton's future and in what we want to achieve as a club," Ronald Koeman said of the new acquisition at the time.
Vlašić's introduction to life in England was somewhat mixed, however, his progress disrupted when Everton's 2017-18 season imploded and Koeman was sacked before the end of October.
Caretaker boss David Unsworth opted for other players as he sought to stabilise the team's form during his five-week stint and Vlašić would find his chances similarly few and far between for the remainder of the season under Sam Allardyce.
The player believed that, as a young player in a foreign league, the Blues
didn't give him enough time to adjust with lengthy spells between starts
derailing his progress.
He started just two more Premier League games, weeks apart, which allowed no opportunity to gain any kind of momentum,
prompting comments from his
father, and giving Nikola something of a point to prove when
selected for his national side, scoring two of Croatia's four goals their
U21s win over Moldova in March 2018.
With the appointment of Marco Silva in May 2018 and his stated commitment to youth, Vlašić had fresh hope of establishing himself at Goodison Park but, following the pre-season programme, he was informed that he would not be in the manager's plans for the upcoming season and that he would be made available for loan.
Vlašić secured a season-long spell at CSKA Moscow in August 2018 and made an instant impression scoring the winner in a Champions League group game against Real Madrid and went on to score eight goals in 31 appearances. That was enough to convince the Russian club to make his loan move permanent in June
2019, spending a reported £14.2m to sign him on a 5-year contract.
"There were a lot of changes at Everton and I didn't find my place
there," Vlašić had told Fox
Sports Radio of his failed move to the Premier League. "It's always hard there because, if you
don’t take your chance first time, then it’s hard to get another.
"Here, I have a chance every time. Even if I play badly in one game, I know
I will have another chance. It’s the best thing that could have happened for me,
this trust that I have at CSKA from the coach, the staff, the players,
everybody. This is the main thing for a player to play in a good way."
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