Gerard Deulofeu possesses many rare skills.
The young winger can render opposition players ornamental with his array of attributes: quick feet, searing pace and a brash soccer arrogance that so often accompanies those that have had their game refined at Barcelona’s La Masia academy.
But the Spaniard is curiously divisive. Indeed, now that he has signed for Everton this summer in a £4.25 million 3-year deal, reactions were contrasting.
The majority of those associated with the Toffees seemed delighted to be acquiring a player of such raw talent for a meagre fee. Barcelona don’t let quality walk away on the cheap, though, and perhaps those Evertonians a little more guarded about the 21-year-old’s purchase will offer an insight as to why the Catalonians are relinquishing his services.
Although Deulofeu thrillingly sashayed past many an opponent during his spell on loan at Goodison Park in 2013-14, just as often he blazed a shot over or spurned the chance to pass to a better placed teammate. He’s an enigma and a capricious player, but as was clear during his first stint with Everton, he’s infuriatingly erratic.
Admittedly that’s natural in the case of many young wingers and expectations were that as Deulofeu continued to mature, so too would his end product. But a second spell on loan from Barcelona in 2014-15, this time with Sevilla, yielded some fresh concerns.
“He has incredible qualities but lacks others. Put him out there, one on one and … pfff,” said former Sevilla boss Unai Emery about the La Masia starlet, per the Liverpool Echo. “But make him play football with team-mates, on a big pitch, and it’s hard. He doesn’t have the maturity or capacity for sacrifice yet.”
They are altruistic traits which Deulofeu must discover at Goodison Park if he is to make good on his glittering potential. There’s little denying Everton boss Roberto Martinez faces a stern challenge if he’s to get Deulofeu to add a vital dash of industry to his individualistic approach. But for Everton, it’s a gamble worth taking.
The player must be acutely aware that his career is at a precarious point. For youngsters with the raw ability Deulofeu possesses, wingers in particular, it’s easy to fall by the wayside. In the cutthroat environment of modern soccer, to scramble up to the elite level wide-men need much more than a few flashy tricks and a burst of speed.
For Deulofeu, the penny seems to have finally dropped, as is evident by his own insistence to move away from the Nou Camp on a permanent deal, per Guillem Balague.
For a man born in the Catalonian province of Riudarenes, giving up on the chance to follow in the footsteps of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Pedro Rodriguez must be galling. But a fresh start has become a necessity for the Spanish international.
Everton, providing a familiar environment, can help his development. Deulofeu’s shown in bursts that he has the talent and temperament to cope with the abrasive landscape of the Premier League and while some Evertonians remain unconvinced by his merits, overall, he’s a popular figure with the club’s fanbase.
“I will always remember an image, I don’t know what game but one of the later ones, with Gerard on the ball running towards Gwladys,” said Martinez recently in an interview with local fan website, per sos1878.co.uk. “and the whole stand just stood up and thought something is going to happen here. I think that’s the type of player that he is, when he gets on the ball you think he can do something special.”
It’s the kind of spark the Everton supporters should be craving after enduring a sequence of soporific performances last season.
So often the team were one-dimensional in their forward forays in 2014-15, blunted and shackled by cohesive opponents. But in 2013-14, Deulofeu gave the Toffees an unpredictable edge, something that was lacking for almost the entirety of the previous campaign.
The Catalan is the kind of player who can also stir a set of supporters engulfed by a melancholic haze. But in turn, this move should also act as a stark wake-up call to Deulofeu.
It’s clear now the youngster will not follow the furrowed path so many Catalan lads have tread from La Masia straight into the Barcelona first team. If the winger is going to make it to the very top, he’s going to have to follow a different pattern. And although his career is at a precarious point, it’s not a route that’ll necessarily be to his detriment.
The Blaugrana’s insistence on including a buy-back clause in the deal for the winger suggests they’ve yet to give up on his ability. In addition, as the cases of Pique and Cesc Fabregas illustrate, a permanent move away from the Camp Nou doesn’t necessarily condemn a player to a career of mediocrity, nor end any chance of enjoying success with Barcelona further down the line.
But Evertonians needn’t worry about the prospect of Deulofeu returning to Barcelona quite yet. With Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar—not to mention Pedro penning an extension with the club—the Catalonians are far from bereft of forward options.
There’ll be an onus on Deulofeu to deliver at Everton and the responsibility he will have to shoulder poses an intriguing new challenge for him. But, for all his flaws, the club can be content with a shrewd piece of business, especially when examining some of the astronomical sums that have been traded before the window has even opened.
After all, this is a young man who rated as one of European football’s brightest talents when he joined the Toffees on loan two years ago; the crown jewel of the La Masia academy that churned out Xavi, Iniesta and Lionel Messi.
Deulofeu has some lessons to learn before his reputation scales those kings of heights again, but if everything aligns for the winger on Merseyside, Everton will have some player on their hands.
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