UPDATE - This deal has now been confirmed
Everton have signed France youth defender Niels Nkounkou on a free transfer
The 19-year-old turned down the offer of a new contract with the French club in order to move to Goodison Park, where he has put pen-to-paper on a three-year deal
| We have signed France U19 left-back Niels Nkounkou on a free transfer from Olympique de Marseille.— Everton (@Everton) July 2, 2020
Welcome to #EFC, Niels!
The Toffees reportedly beat off competition from Juventus and RB Leipzig to land the youngster.
It is believed Nkounkou will train with the first-team squad but will likely spend much of the next campaign playing for the U23 side. The teenager, who is primarily a left-back but can play further forward, has been a regular for Marseille’s reserves this season and has been capped twice by France U19s.
By moving to Goodison he will now work closely alongside fellow Frenchman and current France left-back Lucas Digne.
With the Toffees also hoping Leighton Baines will sign a new one-year deal, Nkounkou will face competition for a senior place. However, at 35, Baines is unlikely to keep playing for much longer, meaning Nkounkou will have the opportunity to become back-up left-back to Digne, with the long-term aim of eventually unseating his senior compatriot.
It is that kind of development pathway Marcel Brands is trying to sell to promising young players, who may have offers from bigger sides but would risk growing stale in the reserves.
It would also give the kind of squad depth the club eventually needs in every position, with an established first-teamer, solid back-up option and promising youngster.
Speaking about the deal, Brands said:
“Niels is a young, talented player with good technical and physical skills. We have been following him for months.
“Hopefully he can learn a lot from Lucas Digne and Leighton Baines, as well as Carlo Ancelotti and David Unsworth, and follow the same pathway into the first team the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Mason Holgate have taken in recent years.”
In other news, Everton confirmed the sale of U23 striker Fraser Hornby to French side Reims for an undisclosed fee.
↩️ | #EFCU23 forward Fraser Hornby has completed a permanent transfer to @StadedeReims for an undisclosed fee.— Everton (@Everton) July 1, 2020
Good luck, @fraser_hornby!
The 20-year-old, who joined the Toffees from Northampton six years ago, was part of the U23 side that lifted the Premier League 2 title last season.
He departs having made just one senior appearance for the club against Apollon Limassol in the Europa League in 2017.
Meanwhile, young defender Con Ouzounidis has signed a new one-year contract with the Blues.
️ l “I owe a lot to the physios and the coaches for putting their faith in me. When you see the direction the Club is going, it’s a very exciting place to be."— Everton (@Everton) July 1, 2020
✍️ @ConOuzounidis pens new deal at #EFC
The 20-year-old Australian youth international, who joined the club at the age of 11, is now back to full fitness after an injury-hit start to the season.
“I’ve worked really hard and I feel like I’m progressing well. The whole time during my injury earlier in the season, the club staff were speaking to me, telling me they believed in me and they knew what I could do.
“They kept me positive mentally, explaining that when I got back I would get my chance to prove myself.
“When I did come back, I think I played well. I owe a lot to the physios and the coaches for putting their faith in me. I just hope we get back to training before too long and I can keep developing.
“When you see the direction the club is going, we’ve got a world-class manager here, it’s a very exciting place to be.”