In the latest addition to the Everton chronicles of slow, drawn out transfers, Lucas Digne has finally been announced as a Blue; 2 days after announcing his departure from Barcelona himself via Instagram.
The Freshman has joined from the Spanish Champions for a rumoured fee of £18m & is a welcomed acquisition following the season of crisis that revolved around left-back for Everton last season. With this, Cuco Martina will surely be on his way as the 25 year-old Digne brings a wealth of experience from the Champions League, having played for European super-clubs such as PSG, Roma & Barcelona, not to mention Lille during their stint in European competition between 2011-2013.
With Digne surely keen to get his boots on & be in contention to play week in week out, the time has come to dissect & explore the future options of one of Goodison’s most beloved sons, the naughtiest left-back in town: Leighton Baines.
Despite labelling reports of homesickness “misconstrued” back in 2010, it is hard to imagine that the now 33 year-old will move from Merseyside, certainly not within the next season as he still very much has something to offer on the pitch. Despite age meaning Baines cannot bomb up & down the left as frequently as he used to with Steven Pienaar in front of him, Baines still has a lot to offer, as demonstrated by his influence when returning back from injury last season, as well as his dynamism under Marco Silva thus far in pre-season.
Having been at Everton for the best part of 11 years, Baines has seen a lot come & go through the doors of both Bellefield & Finch Farm, & the 13 years at the top flight experience of English football means Baines can offer a vast amount of advice for Digne to fine-tune his game & acclimatise to the Premier League. Though it seems a rehashed cliche, the Premier League is very much a league like no other. It has an element of physicality that cannot be found elsewhere, & the demand to be at your physical peak cannot be taken lightly, or you will be found out. Baines is exemplary to this as his physical condition is, & always has been very good.
There is a case to be made that a season of healthy rotation is ahead, to not only blood Digne into his new club, but to extract all that Leighton Baines has left to offer. His vision on the pitch remains unmatched by many at the club, as the ability to pick out runs with a variety of different passes; whether that be a looping cross or a short cut-back remain one of his standout attributes. While Baines’ influence as a senior member off the pitch remains invaluable, Digne is not necessarily in position for mentorship at the age of 25, therefore, rotation may be on a week in, week out basis, or starts may be based who is best suited to the opposition.
A move away for Baines would simply be too soon & as a role model to those at the club, a coaching position would surely be available if that what Baines chooses to pursue over his enthusiasm for indie music & photography (which he has a particular talent for).
Despite the jaw-dropping CV, Digne’s career has somewhat stagnated since his move to Barcelona as is the case with many of the talented youth that are brought to the Camp Nou. Through not much fault of his own, it is a uphill battle to knock Spanish international starter Jordi Alba from the position he has held down for so many years, & as consequence Digne has amounted only 21 international caps for World Champions France & has played second-fiddle to Real Madrid’s Theo Hernandez who was part of the Summer’s World Cup winning side while Digne was on stand-by.
This indicates that Digne’s career is in need of a spark at Everton & he seems the ideal candidate to be the long term successor of Leighton Baines. Similarly to the conundrum at centre-half, Digne’s starting position may be cemented incrementally over the next season or 2. On surface level, this seems like a top bit of business for the immediate & long term future, let’s aspire to see similar deals before the seasons opener against Wolves on the 11th August.
Max Carlyle (@Max_Carlyle)