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.