For so many years, Everton supporters have learned to fear the name ‘Gerrard’ in the build up to the Merseyside derby. But on the brink of the 221st meeting between the two sides, there is a name that might strike up a little more excitement for those of a blue persuasion.
Gerard Deulofeu’s summer arrival on Merseyside from Barcelona was accompanied by a host of anticipation and excitement. The La Masia graduate was linked with a host of Europe’s top clubs, but in the end — convinced by fellow Catalan Roberto Martinez — he chose to join Everton on a season-long loan.
So far, he has been used sparingly, as his manager has looked to ease him into the robust nature of English football. But talk has gathered pace that Deulofeu might make his first start for the Toffees this weekend in the derby game. This was fueled further as Martinez hinted that the Spanish U21 international is be ready to make his Premier League bow.
It would be a bold decision from the Everton boss, but all things considered, the time seems right to unleash this prodigious talent on Liverpool and the Premier League.
Make no mistake, Deulofeu is a supremely gifted player. He is very, very highly thought of in Catalonia, with many expecting him to line-up on the right side of a Barcelona attacking triumvirate containing Lionel Messi and Neymar. But at nineteen years old, he has much to learn, and the Spanish giants hope he can do a large portion of that in the blue of Everton.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, questions linger about whether Deulofeu is ready to make his first Premier League start in arguably the most ferocious fixture in English football. From Everton’s point of view, it would be a gamble, but one that could bear fruit.
The team have made an encouraging start under Martinez, but from an attacking perspective, they have occasionally looked one-dimensional and predictable. Kevin Mirallas, the man who offered such a direct, dynamic threat last season, has had a poor start to the campaign and as such, Everton’s attacking forays have been sometimes been one-paced and ponderous.
The natural replacement for Mirallas is the Barcelona loanee, and in the snippets we’ve seen of Deulofeu in an Everton shirt, particularly in the Carling Cup against Fulham, he certainly has what it takes to spruce up the Toffees’ front line.
He is a player who exudes Blaugrana class and conviction, and that is why Evertonians should feel excitement, not apprehension, if his name is on the team sheet come Saturday lunchtime. Yes, he is raw and will probably make mistakes. But he has that x-factor that has been so noticeably absent in Everton’s attacking play as of late.
What type of player is he? Well, his Barcelona background would naturally lead to comparisons with Lionel Messi. But Deulofeu has a skill-set much more equivalent to one Cristiano Ronaldo. Mainly scintillating pace from a standing start, an ability to stroll past his man and a rocket of a shot.