Even with the re-emergence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin from injury lately, questions remain regarding the future of the options behind him. While Joshua King was a good signing in theory, that has not played out practically whatsoever as of yet, and Richarlison has shown that he is not the man to lead as a central striker. This is, of course, no disrespect towards him, but his gifts are better enjoyed wide on either side.
Which brings us back to the question regarding who slots in behind Calvert-Lewin. Moise Kean looks to be gone, either to PSG or back to Juventus, and that transfer fee should assist towards nabbing a replacement.
While so many names are constantly filtering through the transfer rumour mill, it is easy to become distracted by the likes of Sergio Aguero, yet the three names that intrigue me remain Rafael Leao of AC Milan, Daryl Dike of Barnsley (via Orlando City SC), and Slavia Prague’s Abdallah Sima. While each player is young, between 19 and 21 at the time of this piece, they are all at different stages of their young careers, and all might have different interplay with their new outfit on Merseyside.
Rafael Leao: From Milan to Merseyside, the pace is unreal
The Portuguese 21-year-old can play across the front line of a 4-3-3, either centrally or on the left wing, yet could also provide some help in a shape with two men at spelling duties in front of goal. Leao has proven that he understands both concepts while at Milan, and should they decide to move the young man for financial purposes this summer, the reports might be correct in suggesting that he could find his way to Everton.
His presence would simply open up more space for others in behind him, as his pace has been demonstrated on numerous occasions as simply blistering. In matches where Calvert-Lewin is playing and is healthy, his substitution would offer a respite for our lead number nine, while absolutely demoralising the opposition defence. It is no fun to go against Calvert-Lewin for an entire game, but having to cover a fresh Leao is hardly any easier a task, either.
Leao’s numbers at Milan, playing behind or alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic, have been reasonable this season, and for me are an indicator that he may simply need to move on to continue this progression. Six goals and five assists in the league (from an xG of 6.62 and xA of 4.3) is positive, and it demonstrates a feel for the game that is not exclusively about scoring goals; he is playing football, aiming for the correct pass and play, hustling, and being a positive for his outfit.
His price tag is likely the highest of all three players, yet between the cash that Farhad Moshiri continues to lavish onto the club and coach, as well as the reward for the sales of various players, including Kean, should help to soften the pain associated with paying serious money for Kean’s replacement.
It is also difficult to say that any one player will make Everton forget about what might’ve been with Kean, yet it is better to have a player of lesser quality who wishes to play with you, than a more talented player who has less interest.
Daryl Dike: Another finisher for Big Dunc and Carlo to refine
Dike is not like many of the usual names we discuss during these types of pieces. He is an American on loan at Barnsley, being signed to Orlando City SC. He has made all of the noise for himself; nothing has been given to him and should he find himself the desire of a major club in England or elsewhere, it will be another lesson to us all as per why you must believe in yourself first and foremost.
While Leao has demonstrated ability and guile in the box, Dike has not only scored more than Leao, but he has done so in fewer games. Granted, his competition is far less stiff than that which Leao confronts week in, week out, yet with better players and systems around him, it is not too hard to imagine him replicating his success with a team like Everton. The stocky striker has nine goals in 18 appearances, with all of his goals coming from inside the box reminiscent of former Evertonian Ayegbeni ‘Yak’ Yakubu.
Should finances be reasonable, I might like Dike as a player that we continue to develop both at home, as well as possibly abroad through loans, while still retrieving more depth at this general position and either wing.
Abdallah Sima: The youngest of the bunch, perhaps with the highest ceiling
Sima is only 19 and can play from right to left wing, as well as a central striker; the player is a dream for those with the patience and vision to coach the player up. He has experience playing with Slavia Prague, both domestically as well as in Europe, and can produce given the proper players and scenarios. The Senegalese attacker, who sits roughly the same size as Leao, and slightly taller than Dike, has easily been the most active of the players for their clubs this season, yet across all competitions, his numbers remain impressive and nuanced.
His 19 goals and eight assists across all competitions explain to those who have yet to see him play that they young man can be an impact no matter where he is started, or substituted to, on the pitch. And while all of these numbers and and opportunities are impressive, his price tag remains relatively reasonable, suggested to be slightly less than £10 million.
Whether more creative help in the midfield is sought, or a right-back like Max Aarons is signed, the Blues will have to have the right mixture of signings in each position - including backup for Calvert-Lewin - moving forward. Ancelotti and Everton have seen what happens when you do not have those backups and one of your stars goes down.
How many points might’ve been dropped across an entire season in part thanks to this? More than we likely can afford with only five matches remaining, and so this is an issue that could haunt us going into next season should we fail to qualify Europe.
Were I to have to choose one, I would take Sima, because for me, he appears most Kean-like in his pure ability and intuition. The age, ability, fearlessness and price make it a positive signing for the future, but it is certainly difficult to argue that Leao wouldn’t be better in the immediate-term. Either or both would be an upgrade over the Toffees current depth, and would leave Ancelotti more options to keep us firing on all cylinders.