Absolutely no one is surprised that Everton are in the mix for a midfielder or three this summer. With the departure of Idrissa Gueye and the injury to Jean-Philippe Gbamin. the middle of the park was a black hole for the Blues last season defensively, and bypassed almost completely offensively as the players plugged into the position chased shadows all season long.
Abdoulaye Doucouré has been linked with the Blues in the past too ever since his manager at Watford FC Marco Silve made the switch to Goodison Park. Now it appears the player has spoken with Carlo Ancelotti and agreed to personal terms with the Toffees on a four-year deal, at least according to French media outlet Téléfoot Chaine (via SportWitness).
The two clubs have had a pretty acrimonious relationship in the past following Silva’s defection and the Hornets asking the Football Association for legal intervention following that, with the Toffees paying over the top for Richarlison following that battle. There has been no transfer fee agreed as yet, though mainstream media have reported that Watford are looking for £25 million.
With the Hornets relegation to the Championship, a fire sale of their valued assets has long been expected with Ismaila Sarr, former Blue Gerard Deulofeu and Doucouré all looking to leave.
From an Everton perspective, there are still too many midfielders on the books - Beni Baningime, Muhamed Besic, Tom Davies, Fabian Delph, Gbamin, Andre Gomes and Gylfi Sigurdsson - and with Allan from Napoli also close to a transfer in, there’s suddenly a big logjam of midfield bodies in the squad.
Baningime is apparently about to go out on loan for the season while Besic has no future at the club and will likely be sold even if it’s for pennies. Newcastle apparently have interest in Davies, but nothing else has come up apart from a rumoured fee of £12m. Gomes and Gbamin are likely going nowhere, which leaves two contract albatrosses in the form of Delph and Sigurdsson which the Blues are unlikely to be able to get rid of.
If the first three on that list are moved on and Delph used exclusively as backup to Lucas Digne at left back, when Gbamin returns from injury he can be the fifth of a grouping that could include Gomes, Sigurdsson, Allan and Doucouré. While that midfield wouldn’t make Everton a top six side right away, it’s definitely a big improvement on the current season as well as setting the club up well to bring in some youth when Sigurdsson comes off the wage bill in the summer of 2022.
Allan and Doucouré are dissimilar players who operate in different areas of the pitch, though both midfielders. While Allan is more of a defensive midfielder with passing range, Doucouré tends to ply his trade further upfield where he is at his disruptive best. They can certainly both be used in a midfield pairing whether it’s a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1, though you feel in a 4-3-3 is where Ancelotti can bring in a third of the players named above to really put the screws into the opposition.
There is also another possibility that Everton are using this talk of a Doucouré agreement to force Napoli’s hand as they push for a transfer fee closer to the €30m mark which might end up being what Doucouré will cost as well.
After the last two weeks of radio silence on transfer news, it’s finally looking like things are in motion for the Blues.