Michael Keane has been linked with a number of Premier League clubs this season - 24 years old, contract expiring in a year, English-born, well-built, ball-playing center back, what’s not to like? Everton have their share of center half issues to resolve for the long term, and Keane has often been linked as the solution, especially since the Blues lavishly washed their hands of John Stones and his growing pains.
Everton play Burnley on Saturday at Goodison Park, and the club along with the fans will be wanting to show the player what he can be a part of by completing the switch to the Toffees during the summer.
In an pre-match interview, Ronald Koeman was very complimentary of the player, as he has been all along.
“He is one of the defenders really involved in the season of Burnley.
“It’s not easy to score, it is not easy to create against them. I think he’s one of the young centre-backs with a great future in front of him.”
The statistics prove the eye test is not off balance either - his composure on the ball is very different from Stones’ young-giraffe-falling-over-himself gallops upfield, and Keane’s passing range is excellent as well.
So, I’ve been mucking about making an expected pass (xP) model recently and who should turn up in it as the season’s best progressive passing centre back but reported Everton target Michael Keane.
Click on the story for more on Riley’s xP model.
Keane is a Manchester-born product of the famed Manchester United Academy, and was loaned to the Clarets at the beginning of the 2014-15 season, with Burnley making the transfer permanent for a measly £3m in January 2015.
The right-footed defender has picked up two England caps since, with 24 Three Lions youth international appearances and a further 3 Republic of Ireland youth team games.
How he handles Romelu Lukaku at Goodison Park will be one of the intriguing battles to watch out for on Saturday. The Belgian striker has been simply irresistible at home in recent months and Keane is going to be challenged with keeping him quiet.