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CONFIRMED: Everton sell Lucas Digne to Aston Villa

Frenchman departs after three-and-a-half years with the Toffees

Everton v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Everton have confirmed the departure of defender Lucas Digne to Aston Villa.

A terse, three-line statement announced the news, with the France international, who has signed a four-and-a-half year deal, reportedly costing around £25m with add-ons.

He departs having made 125 appearances for the Blues, scoring six goals.

The former Roma player joined from Barcelona in the summer of 2018 as one of Marco Silva’s early purchases and quickly proved himself a worthy successor to Leighton Baines in the left-back slot.

Digne only signed a new long-term contract last year and looked set to spend the rest of his career at Goodison, but on Wednesday night he was writing an emotional goodbye on Instagram.

How quickly things can change.

There are likely to be mixed feelings among Evertonians given the controversial nature of the move.

On the face of things, it looks good business. Digne has given Everton three years of solid service during his peak years and leaves at a profit six months before his 29th birthday, while the proceeds of the sale have already been reinvested in two young full-backs who have already been capped by their country.

It is the kind of savvy transfer business we have been crying out for the club to do for several years.

However, Everton are losing one of their most influential players at a time when the team is already struggling. I don’t buy the argument that he has been poor over the last 18 months - the stats show that not to be the case. Yes, his form has dipped at times but so has the rest of the players.

The Toffees are also directly strengthening one of their rivals for the European places (though you could argue the likes of Watford, Burnley and Newcastle are Everton’s rivals right now).

Then there is the messy, fractious nature of the departure.

Digne had been effectively forced out because Rafa Benitez said he was more concerned about his own stats than the team, so argues he had little choice but to sanction the sale.

Critics will point to the fact Digne was happy to play for the club before Benitez’s arrival and only signed a new contract last year, while Benitez has a history of falling out with players wherever he has been.

It was clear their relationship had deteriorated beyond repair and a transfer was best for all concerned, but it leaves a sour taste.

Most Evertonians will wish him well given his performances over the last few years while nervously hoping his replacement Vitaly Mykolenko will hit the ground running.

In a twist of fate, Digne could find himself back at Goodison Park in only a matter of days, with Villa heading to Merseyside on 22 January. With Philippe Coutinho also in the Villa ranks and Steven Gerrard in the dugout.

We all fear what might happen.