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What an Idrissa Gueye sale would mean for Everton

Breaking down what would be the club’s biggest outgoing transfer this side of Romelu Lukaku

Everton FC v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

I don’t think Everton will wind up selling Idrissa Gueye in January.

PSG is hamstrung by Financial Fair Play regulations, brought about by their ridiculous transfer policy of “sign every attacker we can find and let the midfield and defense sort itself out.” The result is that the French giants likely won’t pony up the money needed to make Everton pull the trigger on such a deal.

And yet, the Gana-to-PSG rumor just threw its ten-week-old birthday party, and nowhere have we seen it suggested that Everton simply refuse to sell the player. Is 20 million pounds enough for the Senegalese midfielder? Surely not.

But the fact that we haven’t seen Marco Silva or Marcel Brands go out of their way to curb-stomp this rumor like a dirty cop in a B-level HBO show speaks volumes — especially given the regularity with which Silva denied that Ademola Lookman was going anywhere over the summer.

So although a sale seems unlikely, it’s possible enough to start thinking about what the sale of Idrissa Gueye would mean for Everton.

Let’s start by appreciating what Idrissa Gueye is — probably the best ball-winning midfielder in the world whose name doesn’t rhyme with Shmo’golo Shmante. His tackles per 90 (4.3) are second-most in the Premier league, behind only Ricardo Pereira. His tackle success rate (81%) is substantially better than that of any other midfielder in the top 30 in tackles.

Among midfielders, only Huddersfield’s Jonathan Hogg, Watford’s Etienne Capoue, and Manchester United’s Ander Herrera have more interceptions than Gana (2.4 per 90).

For a player so physically involved in the game, his 1.7 fouls per 90 is quite respectable, as is his tally of four yellow cards so far this season.

Everton FC v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Gana’s weaknesses too are well known. His attacking contribution is limited as best, and he’s prone to the occasional cheap giveaway that breaks a promising counterattack. To be fair, he isn’t a horrific passer (like, I don’t know, say, Tom Davies *ducks*) — he’s just not a good one either.

And in acknowledging that, we stumble into the only real footballing cause available to justify a decision to sell the 29-year-old. If Marco Silva eventually wants to play a style of football that requires all his midfielders to be excellent passers, Idrissa Gueye isn’t a sensible long-term option. (Nor will Davies, James McCarthy, or Muhamed Besic, but I digress.)

But, that’s pretty clearly the only rationale for parting with the player. As I’ve noted, he’s basically a top-two player in the world at what he does — Everton surely aren’t going to take PSG’s money and find a better version of Gana.

In the end then, that’s really what a potential sale of Gueye must come down to. Do Brands and Silva think that they can, using the funds provided by PSG for the midfielder, lay the groundwork for a squad that plays an intricate passing game through the center of the pitch? And in doing so create a team with a higher ceiling than Everton would have playing literally any other style with Gueye still in the fold?

With Marco Silva’s utter fetishization of wide play to this point, it’s...peculiar to imagine him idealizing a tactical plan that involves so much play in the center of midfield. There’s a risk of circular logic there, naturally — maybe Marco does want to play through the center of midfield, but just doesn’t trust Gana to be a part of that plan.

But surely one middling passer in the center of midfield isn’t the only thing that separates Marco from managing like he’s at Barcelona and managing like he’s at Stoke City...right?

All that rationalizing leads me to one of two conclusions — neither of which I’m particularly pleased with.

  1. Silva and Brands do genuinely want to implement an intricate, pass-heavy system that Gana cannot anchor, and for whatever reason, they’re implementing a tactical setup that is the complete opposite while Gueye is still a regular starter.
  2. Silva and Brands have some other reason for keeping an open mind to a sale of the Senegalese midfielder.

(1) leads me to believe that the Toffees are currently implementing a tactical plan that is somewhat misguided at best, and downright foolish at worst.

(2) troubles me because I cannot possibly fathom another reason to willingly sell a player who is downright elite in his role. I don’t claim to know everything, and I’ve certainly been wrong many times before — but I just can’t see any other sensible reason to part with Gueye.

Who knows — maybe five minutes after this gets posted, Marco Silva will make a grand announcement that Idrissa is definitively not for sale, and that will be the end of that.

But short of such a proclamation, I’m left with serious reservations about what a willingness to sell Idrissa Gueye says about the teams current tactics or future vision.