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Time for Everton to take a step back with Moise Kean

Despite being excluded at Southampton, the 19-year-old can still have a great Everton career. But, crucially, it will take time.

Burnley FC v Everton FC - Premier League
Kean’s Everton career has yet to get going
Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

So it transpires that Moise Kean is not what Everton need. Not for right now, anyway. His time may eventually come at Goodison Park, but for the immediate future, right-wing cameos and watching Marco Silva spin the wheel on Richarlison, Cenk Tosun or Dominic Calvert-Lewin up top seems more conceivable.

Your heart might ask how it has come to this, and with such swiftness, too. Only three months ago, the 19-year-old striker’s £27 million move from Juventus triggered one of the greatest tidal waves of optimism and excitement - at least in the hollow vacuum of social media - that Evertonians have enjoyed in recent years. Now, 11 appearances and no goals later, Kean couldn’t even make the matchday squad for Saturday’s win at Southampton.

Brisk, cutting rejoinders, many of which referencing Kean’s price tag (which, by the way, he has zero control over), may be offered in support of why he should be playing. Others may include that, in March, he became both the youngest forward to start, and the second-youngest player to score, for Italy. Can a team 15th in the Premier League, with just 13 goals from 12 games this term, really have the temerity to turn their nose up at such obvious quality?

Well, to be honest, yes. Because your head, on the other hand, may be able to make more sense of it, not least because, for a start, it is vital to stress that Kean is still a teenager. He had made only 44 senior appearances before joining Everton. However prodigious and luminous a footballing talent he may be, his career has barely even begun.

Everton FC v Watford FC - Carabao Cup Round of 16
It is easy to forget just how young Kean still is
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

In his sporadic outings in royal blue so far, he has shown the undeniable promise he possesses, but he also hasn’t scored - quite important for a striker - and has bore the hallmarks of a young player prematurely, hastily put in to the first team ahead of his time. Meanwhile, Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison have netted five each, and even forgotten man Tosun has a goal and assist to his name in the last three matches. Where, then, is the sense in Silva continuing to push him head-first into the deep end, especially when he has found himself on the brink as manager lately?

It’s probably now the time to re-evaluate what we expected from Kean in his first season at Everton. When he parted with Juventus, he left not only one of the best teams in Europe for not even one of the best six (if not more) teams in England, but he also left behind his home country for a culture, a style of play, a league totally alien to him. Could we have been forgiven for predicting more from him so far? Possibly. But should we have expected anything close to a seamless transition, either? Definitely not. For all of the sneering at Kean initially setting himself a seven-goal target for this campaign, perhaps that wouldn’t be such a measly return at all. A bedding-in process was inevitable, and as such, it would be grossly unfair to already condemn him as another of Farhad Moshiri’s expensive failures.

But it’s also a fair argument to suggest whether Silva was entirely on board with Kean’s signing, or whether the deal was more director of football Marcel Brands’ doing. Silva, we are led to believe, targeted far more established, proven strikers this summer, namely Kean’s former Juventus team-mate, Mario Mandžukić, but there were also fears this approach could hinder the development of Calvert-Lewin, himself only 22. Instead of a top-class forward for now, he has, in Kean, a potential top-class forward for later, in an era where managers simply aren’t afforded tomorrow if they can’t deliver today. Much like Ronald Koeman unsuccessfully playing easy to get with Olivier Giroud two years ago, Silva has perhaps not been dealt the hand he hoped for by those above him at Everton.

Everton Unveil New Signing Moise Kean
Kean’s signing was perhaps more down to Brands than Silva
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

The challenge for both manager and player should now be to make the best of it. For Silva, that involves slowly but surely guiding a precocious if extremely raw footballer on the right path. For Kean, it involves reacting to what would have been a devastating blow on the South Coast, and proving his immediate worth to Silva and Everton at Finch Farm over the coming weeks and months. Silva’s treatment of the club’s youngsters has been questionable, but as shown by Mason Holgate and Tom Davies, now approaching mainstays in his starting XI having been peripheral at best last term, the door will never be permanently shut on Kean. Certainly, Silva’s post-match comments about him on Saturday at least set the right tone:

“[A] decision, just a decision. [His reaction was] really good. For sure, he will react stronger the next training sessions when he will be with us.

“Moise is working really hard. He is a young boy with a very good quality as well, doing his best to adapt as fast as we can to a different football as well.

“He has all of my support and my staff and his team-mates to keep growing. For sure, he will do that and in some weeks and some months you will see Moise in a better level for sure.”

You get the feeling that it will go one of two ways with Kean. He will either stare adversity squarely in the face and become a better player for it, as Holgate and Davies have, to differing extents. Or, conversely, he will join the likes of Nikola Vlašić and Ademola Lookman on the Goodison scrapheap as another case of unfulfilled potential; another gifted youngster at odds with this Everton’s vision and direction. Whether that’s down to the desire of the player or mismanagement on the club’s part is really subjective, of course. Either way, it wouldn’t be a good look for Everton.

But as much as Kean might not be ready to fill the two-years-old, Romelu Lukaku-shaped void yet, to give up on him at such an early stage would be a dereliction of duty. The secret ingredient to enabling him to blossom is not playing him out of position and then hooking him at the break, as Silva did in last month’s EFL Cup win over Watford FC; rather, it is time. Without it, he risks being the latest chapter in a sorry tale of woe that no Evertonian should want or need recounting to them by now.