Everton need to get better in attack. Not only does the team need to provide more support to DCL, Richie, and James (when he plays, and if he stays), they need players who can help the team transition from defense to offense. Too many times have we seen incessant back- and sideways passing without the will or ability to progress the ball forward. We've also seen too many times the team unable to break down a low block and sacrifice points to "worse" teams.
In seasons past, I've scoured various sources (including, of course, RBM!) for potential transfer targets intended to improve upon the weaknesses of our beloved Toffees. Then, I learn as much as I can about the rumored players before the window closes and we sign none of them. This year, for some reason, I decided to engage in some idle speculation as to who I might want the Toffees to buy without waiting for others to put their names out there. Below is my (probably shoddy) research into some potential winger targets I think would be good additions to the team.
My criteria for this exercise amount to these: Is the player fast and nimble with the ball? Does the player show aggression and creativity in creating scoring chances? And can the player finish better than Alex Iwobi? (A low bar, I know.) I've also restricted my search to relatively young players: nobody over 24 years of age.
The list is divided into a few sections. The first couple sections contain sure-fire upgrades to the team who are probably long shots considering their price or pedigree (i.e., they'll probably be sought by bigger clubs, leaving Everton a less desirable choice). The next sections are cheaper players who are riskier in terms of proven ability but who I think might grow into assets for the club (either on the field or financially, or both). Without further ado:
THE BEGUILINGLY REALISTIC TARGET
Leon Bailey (23 yo, Bayer Leverkusen)
RBM's Trent Nelson made the case for Bailey quite well in January (though mostly from the perspective of depth; I'd start Bailey on the right and shift James to the 10 spot with Allan and Doucoure behind him). Since then, Bailey finished out his year with 9 goals and 9 assists in 30 Bundesliga appearances, 5 and 2 in 8 Europa League appearances, and even a goal in the Pokal. He was all over the place for Leverkusen in a good way. He's very fast. He can dribble. He can shoot with accuracy from seemingly anywhere near the box. He's got a strong frame. He can pass. Do yourself a favor and check out his FBref.com scouting report (linked above): lots of delicious, high-percentile green bars where it counts.
All of this means he's exactly the kind of quality player we desperately need. That's why we probably won't get him.
Everton were linked with the pacey Jamaican winger/forward last year but a deal didn't materialize. This year, he's been linked with multiple clubs, including Tottenham, Dortmund, and both Manchester teams, so competition might be fierce (thus, raising Bailey's price). Though Leverkusen bought him in 2017 for only £12.15m (thus giving plenty of room for profit), Transfermkt has him rated currently as a £31.50m player, so it would probably take £40-£50m to prise him away from Germany. All indications are that he wants to play in the Premier League and that Leverkusen might be interested in selling to improve their financial situation.
Bailey looks to me like the player we all hope Richarlison can become someday. I'd be overjoyed if Everton splashed the cash, but my hopes are certainly not up.
Trincão (21 yo, Barcelona)
Whereas I believe the Toffees might actually be able to acquire Leon Bailey, there's no chance Trincao becomes available--Barca bought him just last year and included a €500m release clause in his contract. It seems they want him long-term. But with continued reports of financial distress in Catalonia and the need to lock up Messi for one more go, maybe Barcelona entertains an offer in the range of £60m for a quick profit? (They paid €31m.) Considering they already rejected similar offers, probably not. (He's got the same agent as James, so maybe we can work out a loan?)
Rayan Cherki (17 yo, Olympique Lyon)
Discovered playing footie in a parking lot, this teenager already makes grown men look like kids with his dribbling, boasts impressive passing acumen (especially on through balls; 97th percentile among attacking midfielders), and is destined to play for the biggest clubs in the world. (Teenage prodigies always work out, right?)
I don't care that players this young are a huge risk. Nor do I care that if he works out, he's leaving for greener pastures. (Real Madrid and Man U have already been linked.) If Everton are going to Everton their way to mid-table finishes, I'd at least like to watch some players with flair. And with per-90 stats of 2 key passes (more than Gylfi, James, or Digne), 0.28 xA (same as James last year, more than Gylfi or Digne), 0.50 through balls (which is 97th percentile in the Big 5 leagues), 4.4 shot creating actions (better than James's 3.67), 0.88 goal creating actions (again, 97th percentile and 33% more than James's 0.66, best on Everton), 99th percentile in successful pressure %, 4.9 successful dribbles, 3.65 carries into the final third, and 3.27 fouls drawn, it could be much more than just flair.
Everton can certainly offer him more first-team participation than the mega-clubs (at least right now). He could study under James for a year. (What 17-year-old wouldn't want to do that?) He's more of a 10 than a 7. Who cares. Get this man on a loan deal STAT, preferably with an option to buy that might seem hefty now, but looks a steal when it comes due.
Callum Hudson-Odoi (20 yo, Chelsea)
Hudson-Odoi saw his playing time diminish as last season went on and had some trying times with new boss Tuchel, which has the vultures circling. Some have speculated that Odoi could also be part of a package to upgrade Chelsea's striker situation. That being said, the player is saying the right things about wanting to stay, and generally Everton don't outright buy players of this caliber.
His xG numbers don't bode well, but his passing numbers look great and he's good with the ball at his feet. Unlike with Iwobi, I'd have faith that Hudson-Odoi can overcome the warts in his game. He's only 20. Might as well make an offer, right? The only shot you never make is the one you don't take.
THE AFFORDABLES (AKA, THE NEXT VLASIC?)
As mentioned, the following players are more realistic and less expensive, meaning there's a greater risk of these targets to become Koeman-era-esque dead weight in the years to come. Then again, they might not!
Julián Álvarez (21 yo, River Plate)
4 goals and 7 assists in 20 appearances for his team last year, most at RW and striker. His movement and vision seem good (reference this helpful scouting report), though it looks like he could be more clinical in his shooting; his "highlight" goals have too many deflections and are often close enough to the keeper that I think PL goalies are probably saving some of those. He's been called up as an injury replacement for Argentina in this summer's Copa, so that's encouraging. Previously linked to both Juventus and AC Milan, Alvarez is on the higher side of "affordable," with a release clause of €25 million in his newest contract, which ends after the upcoming season.
Bryan Mbeumo (21 yo, Brentford)
Not as creative, much more meat-and-potatoes, but always seemed to put himself in good positions last year as a cog in Brentford's attack. 8 goals and 13 assists in all competitions last year in the Championship. I'm sure Brentford will get plenty of offers for their attacking front three (including Mbeumo) and will resist as much as they can to fight for their spot in the PL, but money is money and can be re-spent. An offer for less than £20m (current valuation £10.80m, bought by Brentford in 2019 for £5.85m) could be too tempting.
Roland Sallai (24 yo, SC Freiburg)
8 goals and 6 assists in 28 appearances in the Bundesliga this past year (some starting and some from the bench) have skyrocketed his valuation to £11.70m per Transfermarkt. Freiburg paid £4.05m for him in 2018; he bounced around before that, mostly in his native Hungary. If he has a good Euro 2020 for his country, that valuation could climb even higher, but he's still at a good price point for someone with his speed, who shows his ability to score and make runs. An offer in the high teens could be enough of a profit for Freiburg to bite, and wouldn't be too risky an investment for the Toffees. FBref lists our very own Richarlison as his closest comp; if he's 80% as good as Richie, for that price he'd be a steal.
Ianis Hagi (22 yo, Rangers)
While Rangers hope to keep the young Romanian in their squad, they are not desperate for players at his position (of his 27 appearances in the Scottish Premiership, 7 were as a substitute and on 6 occasions he couldn't get off the bench). With a stated valuation of £6m, it would not be much of a risk for Everton to see if Ianis's penchant for attacking play (8 goals and 15 assists in all competitions) would translate to the stronger league. While his underlying stats don't scream superstar, or even star, he could be reasonable depth at a position of need.
*FYI, this is my first post here. Long time lurker. Thanks to all the RBM staff and frequent commenters for enriching my fandom; I appreciate it.