Deulofeu's Welcome Return

Lyndon Lloyd 25/06/2015   Comments  [Jump to last]
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When Gerard Deulofeu signed off his loan spell in May last year with a fond farewell, there was a strong feeling that he might be back as soon as August on another season-long loan when, as expected, incoming Barcelona boss Luis Enrique decided that the then 20-year-old wasn't quite ready to be a part of Barcelona's senior side.

Though Deulofeu would end up being farmed out on loan for the 2014-15 season to Sevilla – a move designed, no doubt, to see how the player would fare in the environs of La Liga compared to the more hectic and less Continental English Premier League – Evertonians could never quite let him go. The love affair that many Blues had developed with the mercurial Spaniard would live on and play out on Twitter, with the prolonged life of the #HesMagicYaKnow hashtag and Gerard responding with affection to playful ribbing of his "very very wind" reference when things got particularly blustery on Merseyside.

It's not surprising, therefore, that after a difficult season under Unai Emery at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, the now 21-year-old Deulofeu has elected to turn down a more lucrative offer elsewhere and return to his second home at Goodison Park on a permanent basis. Rejecting the prospect of a third season on loan, he clearly wants to settle in one team now and work on fulfilling the enormous potential that had observers of him as a teenager branding him as the "next Cristiano Ronaldo".

In negotiating a buy-back cause over the first two years and first option on his sale after that, Barcelona have retained an interest in their academy graduate should he indeed become the player many feel he can; Everton, meanwhile, have recaptured a player who can make a genuine difference to a team that struggled last term to emulate its achievements of the season before when Deulofeu was in the side. What's more, they have concluded brilliant business with a fee of just £4.26m.

While he was becoming an increasingly peripheral figure at Sevilla, and perhaps reminsicing about the impact he made with the Blues, many Evertonians were pining at times for the moments of magic – sometimes game-changing moments – that Deulofeu had been able to conjure up during Roberto Martinez's first season at the club.

The standout moment of his first spell will be that magnificent strike at Arsenal, a goal almost out of nothing that rescued Everton from familiar defeat on the Gunners' home turf. One of the other abiding, less spectacular but equally telling memories, however, comes from the win at Sunderland in April last year where his sheer bloody-minded persistence in running at the right side of the Black Cats’ defence finally paid off when he forced a goal in off Wes Brown.

It was another one of those performances under Martinez where you just couldn’t see how the Blues were going to find the inspiration to unlock an opposition defence and a game that without Deulofeu's contribution might have ended in another annoying goalless draw rather than a seventh straight win, the final salvo in Everton’s abortive cavalry-charge towards the top four that season.

In completing the permament acquistion of the triumverate that made up what Martin Samuel infamously labelled "Everton's £50m loan sham", Martinez has acquired another known quantity with experience not only of the Premier League but of playing for this team as well. For all Deulofeu's sparks of magic, however, it's a signing that comes with trade-offs if, as expected, he is deployed mostly on the flanks. Where Aaron Lennon would run his backside off tracking back and shame the other players into working harder, Gerard’s mind will likely always be on attack.

Certainly Emery's comments that, "he isn't mature enough yet and needs spirit of sacrifice [for the team]" suggest that Everton will likely have signed a very similar player to the one that left a little over a year ago. He will have learned much from his experience at Sevilla and perhaps been humbled somewhat but remains a work in progress and an inviting challenge for Martinez to groom and mold as a full-time member of the squad rather than a temporary addition.

Like Tom Cleverley, it's unlikely he will have been brought in as the much-vaunted "number 10" that Martinez has made a top priority for the summer but, similar to Kevin Mirallas, his versatility and ability to play off Romelu Lukaku when needed is an important asset.

As pleasing as it is to see the club land two good signings before the transfer window has officially opened, though, it's vital that they mark the beginning of the manager's transfer business and not its peak. In an ideal world, the addition of a player like Cleverley on a free transfer and a rough diamond on a cut-price deal from the Continent would be the cherries on the top of a summer of top-class acquisitions down the spine of the team.

With Martinez's budget unknown and the club unlikely to hand him the millions he really needs to add genuine quality, particularly in goal, in attacking central midfield and up front, the manager won't be operating in anything approaching an ideal world. Whether it's another masterstroke on loan or a couple more imaginative additions for modest fees, he'll have a few more tricks up his sleeve before the transfer window closes.

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