Everton are continuing their valiant attempt to lighten their wage bill sending out another player from the first team squad. Young left back Niels Nkounkou will go out to Standard Liege in Belgium on a season-long loan with no option to buy. The highly rated youngster continues to be the long term back up for Lucas Digne on the left side of defence, but it looks like manager Rafa Benitez and Director of Football Marcel Brands have made the decision to get him regular playing time.
Nkounkou was Everton’s first signing last summer, joining the Blues on a free transfer from Olympique Marseille. The then 19-year-old turned down the offer of a new contract with the French club in order to move to Goodison Park, where he signed a three-year deal.
Liege finished in sixth place in the Jupiler league last season, qualifying for the second tier of the convoluted playoffs system, and narrowly missed out playing in the Europa Conference League, not unlike Everton.
Les Rouches have started the new season reasonably with three wins, a draw and two losses in their first six games. They have shown flexibility bouncing between a five-man backline and a 4-4-2 system with 26-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Gavory the incumbent in the left back position.
Nkounkou’s strengths are his pace and power, and was last seen this season galloping through a bemused Huddersfield Town midfield as he set up Moise Kean for the game’s opener that was wrongly disallowed for offside. The 20-year-old has seven appearances for the first team with a further four games played for the Everton Under-23s.
This is a puzzling move for Everton especially since they let Thierry Small leave this summer as well, leaving scant backup options now for Digne. Ben Godfrey stepped in at times last season at the left back position when Digne was injured, with Jarrad Branthwaite and Fabian Delph also options to play the position if needed.
The Blues shortcomings at the right back position are already well-known and now they might end up being thin at the left back spot as well for this season.
The summer transfer window closes today Tuesday, August 31st at 11pm BST.