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How would deep-lying playmaker fit in at Everton?

There’s been lots of recent chatter about Steven N’Zonzi

Everton v Sevilla - Pre Season Friendly
Davy Klaassen of Everton is tackled by Steven N'Zonzi of Sevilla during a pre-season friendly
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Midfielder Steven N’Zonzi is unsettled at Sevilla this season as new manager Eduardo Berizzo hasn’t utilized him as much as Jorge Sampaoli had previously. With Sam Allardyce taking over at Everton, he has been linked with a move to join up with his former Blackburn Rovers manager.

Everton for their part have not gotten the best out of Morgan Schneiderlin this season in that deep-lying playmaker role. He has looked slow and out of sync with a largely dysfunctional Toffees side that began the season under Ronald Koeman. Idrissa Gana Gueye has recently taken over that pivot role, but his passing range and ability is quite limited.

Steven N’Zonzi past six seasons

Despite the prevailing notion that N’Zonzi was just a bit-part midfielder who has tried and failed at the Premier League level, his performances in the La Liga show that much like Kevin De Bruyne, Nemanja Matic, and Paul Pogba, there is life after the Premier League and it is entirely possible to return a better player.

Incredibly strong in the air (he wins 3 out of 4 aerial duels), N’Zonzi has made marked improvements in his midfield positioning and passing accuracy to become a more complete midfielder. He continues to be an aggressive player who will pick up cautions, but has toned it down since his English days.

Steven N’Zonzi 2016-17 radar

N’Zonzi was Player of the Year multiple times for both Blackburn and Stoke City before going to Sevilla where he really made his mark in European competition. In 2015-16 when they won the Europa League beating Liverpool in the final, he was named to the UEFA Team of the Tournament.

From a scouting report written on him earlier this year -

This is a man who has just made one call-up for his national side, the French U-21s, who has transformed into one of the best registas on the planet, and who represents everything that the modern, complete midfielder entails.

A mobile regista, N’Zonzi demonstrates intelligence on the ball, even though that might not always be the most eye-catching decision. No, N’Zonzi is not your stereotypical regista like Andrea Pirlo, making Hollywood passes from the halfway line to the wings. At best, he’ll chip it to a fullback with satisfying simplicity.

What N’Zonzi does is simplicity personified. Whether it be short, quick passes, clean tackles with both feet on the group, or neglecting the pass and directing a teammate to look elsewhere for a pass, he is the new controller: Mobile, strong, intelligent, and quick-footed.

There has been plenty of interest in the player this year, with Juventus looking at him before choosing Blaise Matuidi while Barcelona remain interested in using him to back up Sergio Busquets. Manchester City have also scouted the midfielder with Yaya Toure on his way out.

Picking up N’Zonzi in January could prove to be a shrewd buy for the Blues, who could easily use him paired up with Schneiderlin, with Gueye as the box-to-box destroyer when playing top six sides, and Wayne Rooney or Gylfi Sigurdsson in front of the pair otherwise for multiple suppliers of the ball.

His situation at Sevilla where he is on contract until the end of the 2019-20 season means the Spanish side might be willing to part ways with him for something in the £25 million range. The Frenchman is currently in London with permission from the club to see his son who still lives in England.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on this one, but it’s starting to move up the likelihood scale for Everton.