Well Everton have just signed somebody from Barcelona, we don’t say that too often. I managed to speak with Jeremy Smith a French Footballer writer and Podcaster for French Football Weekly to tell us all a bit more about our latest signing Lucas Digne.
What can Everton fans expect from Lucas Digne?
A serious hard-working professional who knows that, even though he is only 25, he is already at an important crossroads in his career so will be going all-out to make a good impression. When he first came on the scene at Lille he looked to be becoming a future star. The move to PSG was the natural progression but he never managed to displace Maxwell and so move on. He had a very good year on loan to Roma, which earned a move to Barcelona, but he has failed to dislodge Jordi Alba there. For both PSG and Barca he has played well when needed but never quite been able to make the number one spot his own. And that lack of playing time probably cost him a place in the France squad and a World Cup winner’s medal. That has apparently hit him hard and he knows it’s time to move on and make the starting spot at a top club his own. So Everton should get he best out of a very good full back who knows that he must take his chance to show all his potential.
The reported transfer fee is around 20 million euros. How much money would you value Digne at?
It’s so hard to judge what is reasonable in the post-Neymar market. But I think 20 million is a potential bargain – put it this way, this is someone who has played for three top European teams, hasn’t let himself down at any of them, has multiple trophy winner Champions League experience, has 20-odd caps for a top international nation, has been in the squad for a Euro and a World Cup … and Everton have just paid twice as much for a non-international who only turned up for around a dozen games last season…….! It makes sense that he isn’t going for a lot more than that as he has been a reserve left back for four of the last five seasons. But look at the left backs in the World Cup – there aren’t that many top level players in that position around – and few have the experience and pedigree of Digne – who is still quite young.
What are Digne’s strengths and playing style? Does he bear any similarities to Leighton Baines?
He is a classic modern full back in that he is comfortable with the ball and more than willing to push up the pitch and support the attack – his crossing is strong and he has consistently come up with assists for his teams. He is unlike many modern full backs in that he can also defend. Sometimes caught out of position when the opposition transitions quickly, he is nevertheless a strong tackler, a good reader of the game – and a very good disciplinary record for a defender in today’s football. So yes, similar to Baines in his defensive and attacking ability, but doesn’t have the set pieces extra, so certainly doesn’t contribute as many goals.
Do you think Digne has the attributes to settle quickly in the Premier League?
Absolutely. He has shown his ability in France, in Italy and in Spain. He has held his own against many of the best players in the world. Perhaps after Spain he may need a small amount of time to adjust to the physicality of the Premier League, but Ligue 1 and Serie A both have their fair share of robustness, so he should certainly be able to assert himself soon enough.
How has he performed at his previous clubs and also on the national stage?
I guess I’ve covered lots of it above. He has done a good job everywhere he has been. Perhaps not so spectacular that he has managed to dislodge players like Maxwell and Alba, but these are top class players. His excellent performances at Lille earned a big step up and, despite not becoming a regular, has constantly attracted interest from the best clubs. He played a full season at Roma and did well enough that Barca, no less, wanted him – and he has still played almost 50 matches for them over 2 years. So clearly he is trusted to do a very good, reliable job for some of the best clubs around. Similar story for France – he has rarely let anyone down and has been in and around the squad for over 4 years, but just seems to keep playing second fiddle to a more fashionable first choice. That that first choice (Evra, Kurzawa, Mendy, Hernandez etc) keeps changing but he keeps being there shows his reliability compared to the others. And he did play a couple of the final qualifiers for this World Cup. And he was named as a reserve. But again, he just missed out to Hernandez, who did a great job in Russia. So the onus is on Digne to show Deschamps that he deserved a place in the squad. He needs regular first team action to prove that.
Will Digne be an improvement on Leighton Baines?
Hard to say. Not sure he’s an improvement on Baines at his best. But I think that Baines is past his best, sadly. He’s well on the wrong side of 30 and, I think, is starting to show his age at times. I think Digne is an improvement on the current Baines, and can be relied upon to show the necessary energy and application week in, week out. Digne will want to make the starting spot his own and, the two of them being great professionals, I think that they can find a way to work together, help each other and even job-share, to Everton’s benefit. How do you think Digne will do at Goodison Park? I think he’ll do really well. He’s young, he’s enthusiastic, he’s got a great pedigree, great experience, has played for and with the best. He is frustrated that his career has trodden water when he feels that it should have been on an upward trajectory. This is a great (and who knows, perhaps the last) chance for him to assert himself as one of the world’s best left backs – something he seemed destined to become when he first appeared on the scene. He’s quiet and unassuming but will be trying his hardest and will give his all, and the fans will love him for it. He seems a top guy in general (in the terrorist attack in Barcelona a couple of years back, he left his flat with blankets and water bottles to support the victims and the emergency services). He won’t be making any front page headlines with dodgy extra-curricular trouble-making (he’s married to his childhood sweetheart) and he’ll just get on with doing his job. I think he’ll be a perfect fit for the People’s Club.
Thank you to Jeremy Smith for answering the questions on new signing Lucas Digne and to tell us all a bit more about our new left back!
– Tom (@TomClarke40)