Everton’s late flurry of summer transfer activity continued with the season-long loan signing (with option to buy for about £13 million) of AS Monaco right-back Djibril Sidibé on Wednesday.
He was a key part of Monaco’s side in the 2016-17 Ligue 1 title victory and was named in the league’s team of the year that campaign.
Sidibé also featured as a second-half substitute in their 1-0 pre-season friendly defeat to Everton last month.
Following his arrival, we spoke to French football writer Jeremy Smith on what Everton should get from their newest addition:
RBM: Firstly, how successful would you say Sidibé’s time at Monaco has been?
Jeremy: It was kind of a time of two halves. His first two years at Monaco were extremely successful – his first season saw him performing extremely well and being an underrated contributor to Monaco’s amazing title-winning season and run to the Champions League semi-finals.
He was solid enough defensively (Monaco didn’t need to do much defending that season) and was excellent going forward, combining brilliantly with Bernardo Silva down the right flank and contributing six league assists.
The following year, despite quite a few stars leaving, he still performed well going forward, with eight more assists. But he developed a knee problem near the end of the season, decided not to have an operation so that he could be part of France’s (World Cup-winning) squad and the injury ran into the first half of last season.
When he recovered and returned to the first team, Monaco were midway through a horrific season (they finished 17th and were lucky not to be relegated) and, like the rest of the team, he failed to get anywhere near back to his best.
RBM: Everton’s first-choice right-back, Seamus Coleman, has had little serious competition for his place lately, which has perhaps been to his detriment. To what extent do you think Sidibé will solve this problem?
Jeremy: It all depends whether Sidibé can maintain full fitness and return to his best form. He’s a title winner and a reigning World Champion (even if he barely played in Russia) so clearly has a lot of pedigree and at his best will certainly be able to give Coleman something to think about.
I guess the ideal, with Coleman just on the wrong side of 30, Sidibé needing to manage his knee, and their demanding position, would be for them to be able to share the role, so that they can both stay fit and fresh and not fall into complacency.
RBM: What do you think are Sidibé’s biggest strengths?
Jeremy: On the pitch I think Sidibé is best pushing forward, combining and overlapping with the wide man ahead of him, putting in decent crosses and even popping up with the odd goal. He is also versatile, having played a lot of matches at left-back too, and able to start further up the right flank.
Off the pitch, his experience of playing for a top club and country, going far in European and international competitions, playing alongside some star names and for star coaches, will surely put him in a position to give good advice to some of Everton’s younger players too.
RBM: What areas of Sidibé’s game most need improving?
Jeremy: To be totally honest, I’ve never been convinced he’s a very good defender. That often seems to be the case for full-backs these days, but it can be an issue. His positional sense isn’t great and sometimes that means him flying a little rashly into tackles.
He also gave the ball away a staggering amount of times last season. But if he can get back to his 2016-2018 best, then he is still a very solid performer who brings more pros than cons.
RBM: On a loan deal with an option to buy for about £13 million, how good a piece of business would you say this is from Everton?
Jeremy: It’s a potentially brilliant piece of business. The loan means that Everton are paying very little, on an effective year-long trial, to bring in a reigning world champion, who’ll feel he has lots to prove and will be motivated to break back into the France team.
If he can get back to full fitness and form, then they have the chance to buy him for what is peanuts for a top-class player in today’s market. If he can’t, then no harm done; hopefully some of the squad will still have benefited a little from his experience, and Everton can return him to Monaco without any further obligations.
Our thanks to Jeremy for his time. You can also watch his video profiling Sidibé below: