In their first competitive game in the post-Neymar era at Barcelona, against Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup, Ernesto Valverde trotted out the same classic Barcelona 4-3-3. In Neymar’s place on the left side of attack was none other than former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu.
Deulofeu had a great loan spell at AC Milan last year, enough so that Barcelona activated his buyback clause with hopes of turning him into either a contributor or a profit at the Camp Nou. His creative numbers were absolutely outstanding, which lends itself to the idea that though he’s not a replacement for Neymar, he could be productive in a similar role:
Gerard Deulofeu, Milan 16-17. Fellow resident of the Isle of Misfit Wide Players. More huge creative passing numbers. pic.twitter.com/mZWphWSFVQ— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) March 13, 2017
The evening, however, did not go in the way that Gerry and Barcelona would have hope. Before being replaced by Denis Suarez on the hour mark, Deulofeu repeatedly was late making decisions. Too often, he was in the right place to be an outlet on the break, and then just showed no concept of being able to process the game fast enough to find Suarez, Messi, and Rakitic in places where they could score.
His indecisiveness may have been nerves, I mean, this was arguably the biggest game he’s ever played in. Or it could just be that on a field with 21 of the best players on earth, Deulofeu is simply not up to par. I tend to think it’s the latter. These sorts of lapses will be nothing new to Everton fans.
With the second leg just days away and Barcelona having suffered three away goals (including one while down to ten men to Deulofeu’s U21 teammate Marco Asensio) it seems unlikely that Valverde is going to try this experiment again against the two-time reigning European Champions from Madrid. As things stand right now, Gerard Deulofeu looks resigned to spot appearances in garbage time and starts in the Copa Del Rey in January against Spanish minnows.
It’s a shame because there’s a chance Deulofeu could have been useful for Everton this season, but at the moment his career is in a full on stall.