Everton recently bid farewell to long time servant of the club Leighton Baines, and now have a bit of a headache on their hands.
Lucas Digne is one of the top left-backs in the Premier League and a key member of Carlo Ancelotti’s side. The Blues bought promising youngster 19-year-old Niels Nkounkou recently but the player appears very unlikely to be first team standard quite yet. Baines had been offered a one-year extension to stay and bridge the gap while Nkounkou got familiar with the English game at the Under-23 level, but the veteran decided to hang up his boots and now the Blues have a quandary.
The Toffees need to find a decent starting-quality left-back to cover for Digne in case of injury - Fabian Delph and Jarrad Branthwaite can also fill in in case of emergency but in the longer term neither is the answer.
Which is why the Sky rumours yesterday that the Blues have lodged a bid for Real Madrid’s back-up fullback Sergio Reguilón are somewhat puzzling, The 23-year-old certainly fits the profile of the kind of player that Marcel Brands would target, spending the year out on loan at Sevilla as they finished 4th and qualified for the Champions League. The Echo went on to say that no such bid has been made.
RBM writer Zach covers the Spanish game for the SB Nation blog Villarreal USA, and we talked about what he thought of the fullback.
Reguilon made his Real debut in 2018-19 because in Julen Lopetegui’s possession based scheme, Marcelo’s positioning was a disaster waiting to happen, so at Madrid he was mainly asked to be defensively solid and be a outlet where Toni Kroos - Karim Benzema - Vinicius could recycle possession if they needed to. That season most of Madrid’s offense was built on the left.
When he went to Sevilla, the system changed, they played more directly and Reguilon really blossomed offensively. Sevilla had two sets of fullbacks, with Jesus Navas and Sergi Gomez on the right and Reguilon and Sergio Escudero on the left.
Escudero is much more aggressive cutting inside that Reguilon is, and Reguilon was the more technique based player on that side, though he still had his fair share of defensive responsibilities because Jesus Navas basically played as a winger so in transition the left back had to get back.
It’s honestly not going to be an offensive drop off from Digne to Reguilon. They’re different, but Reguilon can bring it. You definitely don’t need both of them, so I assume being linked with Sergi means Digne has to be getting shopped somewhere?
A high-level look at their stats shows Digne has the edge in aerial win percentage and in pressing, but Reguilón is the better defender disrupting opponents, dribbles more and a better pass accuracy, and critically for Everton, does well progressing the ball not just into the final third.
Digne and Reguilón have very similar expected goal involvements (0.23 per 90 & 0,24 per 90), and this graphic basically shows the same player.
If Everton’s interest in Reguilón is indeed legitimate, then it is strange. The Spaniard will not be coming to Merseyside to be a back-up. Everton have plenty of needs all over the pitch to prioritize spending £18 million and commensurate wages on a player that will sit behind a pretty durable Digne.
The Frenchman is certainly marketable right now though, having completed the second season at Everton as a cornerstone in a side that still has a number of weaknesses. More to come on this one.