Lucas Digne might have been the least-heralded of the summer buys and loans Everton brought in this summer, but his outstanding form all season long has vaulted him to the top of the candidates for the Toffees’ Player of the Season.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Star the Frenchman opened up about his time at the Spanish giants, the influence of Lionel Messi, his conversion from striker to fullback and his excellent relationship with the man whose role at Everton he usurped, Leighton Baines.
About superstar Messi, who he calls the best player in the world, Digne says -
“When you train against the best player in the world you learn a lot because you are playing against the best. You need to move fast, do everything fast and better, you can’t miss something because if you do it’s a goal even if it’s only training.
“It’s really good if you’re a left back or a defender to play against this type of player. He is playing on another planet. He sees everything before everyone else, he does everything fast, every time he makes a good decision, he’s the best.
“He’s a good guy, too. He spoke to me when I arrived at Barcelona, he spoke with a lot of players.”
Just wanted to say that it’s absolutely insane how under rated Lucas Digne is, not seen him in one of those PL team of the years. Heads and shoulders better than any other left back in the league— EvertonBlues (@EvertonBlues_) April 25, 2019
Here are his four stunning goals this season. @LucasDigne pic.twitter.com/pZrlnaEw4E
Digne has potted four goals already this season along with four assists, and looks a threat every time the ball comes near his wand of a left foot, whether at a deadball situation or in live action, so it comes as no surprise that he actually started out in the game as a striker.
His favourite of the four remains the freekick against Watford to steal a point late at Goodison Park, though the goal against Manchester United last weekend earned him his first chant.
“It was an important goal and my first at Goodison. The feeling was amazing.
“I was surprised,”
The 25-year-old converted to winger and then at the age of 14 with Lille, where he played with Eden Hazard and Idrissa Gueye among others, he turned into a leftback where he has remained ever since and won 23 caps with France.
“Some people would say, ‘I want to stay as a striker and score the goals’ but it’s OK – I can score as a left back!
“But I love to defend. My job is defence first, after you can attack. It’s perfect.”
Leighton Baines is one of the longest-tenured Blues, and it’s a testament to his humility and team-first attitude that the much-loved veteran ensured that Digne settled in quickly with the Blues.
“We have a really good relationship. He gave me a lot of advice before games, sometimes when I didn’t know the players or the team, he helped me a lot. He gave me the advice for the player.
“He would say, ‘Be careful of him he likes to drive the ball, he likes to go inside’. He’s a legend. It’s a privilege for me to have a player like Leighton help me. He can help me a lot like Jordi Alba helped me at Barcelona.
“The competition has made me a better player. He’s a very good player and when you have a good player with you then you need to push up a level.”
It’s interesting to hear Digne say that about competition, since that’s been a mantra manager Marco Silva has oft-repeated this season. The Blues are still in contention for the seventh spot, and a possible berth in the Europa League, something that’s driving him to excel.
“For me it’s important to qualify. It’s a good signal to the fans to show we are building something.
“Every big club plays in Europe and if you can do it, it is better.”
Whether the Blues make it to Europe or not, they certainly have got the left back position locked down for the next few years with a player that is easily a contender for the best left back in the Premier League.