Regardless of your opinion on Marcel Brands, there’s one thing he did well – and it was no easy task – and that was clearing out the deadwood.
Just two seasons ago, Everton had 21 players out on loan – and most of them had zero chance of a future at the club.
Now the club has just six players out on loan – none of whom are over the age of 23.
So, let’s see how these young players have been getting on so far this season…
Niels Nkounkou – Standard Liege
Niels Nkounkou was strangely allowed to leave the club on loan at the start of the season by Rafa Benitez, despite Everton only having one senior left-back in the squad (Lucas Digne) who was subsequently ostracised.
Left-back is now a real problem area for the Blues with Vitaliy Mykolenko brought in as an expensive replacement, but one who has shown nothing so far to justify the hefty price tag or his capability as a Premier League level player.
Nkounkou was brought to the club at the start of the 2020/21 for a meagre £250,000 fee from Marseille, but impressed in the limited game time he had – primarily in the League Cup.
Although it was a strange move for Everton, this switch did make sense for Nkounkou, as the one thing the 21-year-old Frenchman needed was gametime. And – for the most part – that’s what he’s been getting at Standard Liege – who are sitting in a lowly 13th place in the 18-team Belgian Jupiler Pro League.
That said, Nkounkou hasn’t exactly set the world alight in Belgium, surprisingly registering no goals or assists. The youngster has started 17 of Liege’s 32 league games, while also making five appearances from the bench. He’s primarily been deployed at left-back and occasionally in left midfield when the shape has changed.
While he’s not sealed a spot in the first team squad with this move, there is a real chance he could be competing to start at left-back next season, unless the Blues opt to bring in another left-back. After all, the attacking style of Nkounkou seems a more natural fit for Frank Lampard’s style (especially if operating with wing-backs), compared to the conservative defense-minded approach of Mykolenko.
Moise Kean - Juventus
After a surprisingly successful season in Paris, Moise Kean returned to his former club, Juventus, on a two-year loan deal last summer, which included an obligation to buy.
Which, if it’s as simple as it sounds, means he’s not really on loan at all and is no longer an Everton player.
However, Kean hasn’t become a regular for Juventus this season and there are rumours that the Italian side are trying to find a way out of the deal.
The striker has started 12 games out of a possible 42 for Juve this season, although he has made a further 20 appearances from the bench. In a total of 1,079 minutes of football, he’s managed five goals and two assists – an average of a goal every 216 minutes. Not great, but not terrible. Although probably not enough to justify a £30 million transfer fee.
Joao Virginia – Sporting Lisbon
Another one whose Everton career is effectively over…
22-year-old goalkeeper Virginia joined Sporting Lisbon in the summer, with the deal including an option to buy of around £3 million.
I’ve never understood the point of the selling club allowing an option to buy on a player like this – if he does well, the buying club gets a bargain. If he does badly, the club is lumbered with a poorly performing player once again.
As it stands, Virginia has barely had a look-in as he’s been playing back up to former West Ham goalkeeper Antonio Adan.
Virginia has been on the bench for every league game this season, although he has had a bit of action it the cup and even in the Champions League.
He started in two wins in the Allianz Cup but was then dropped to the bench for the semi-finals and final as Sporting Lisbon went on to win it, while it was a similar story in the Portuguese Cup, as he started every game up to the quarter finals, but then was dropped for the semi-final first leg defeat to Porto.
He also started Lisbon’s final Champions League group game (a 4-2 loss away to Ajax), with the Portuguese club already qualified.
It seems doubtful that Lisbon will exercise their option to buy – although they may spring for another loan more for him. If not, his Everton contract doesn’t expire until 2024.
Goals Conceded: 7
Clean Sheets: 3
Nathan Broadhead - Sunderland
Many an eyebrow was raised when 23-year-old Nathan Broadhead was awarded a new two-year deal despite having played 10 minutes of football for Everton’s first team.
However, there is clearly a talented player there and it seemed like a low-risk move for Everton to hold on to him for a bit longer.
Broadhead moved to League One’s Sunderland in the summer and when he’s been fit, he’s been nothing short of brilliant for the Wearsiders.
The trouble is, it’s been an injury plagued season for Broadhead once again.
It took until November for Broadhead to really get up and running, but then he went on a run scoring six goals in six games – culminating with an equaliser against Arsenal in the quarter finals of the EFL Cup. Sadly, just minutes after scoring, Broadhead was taken off with a severe hamstring injury and was ruled out for several months – with some warning he may even be out for the season.
That hasn’t proved to quite be the case, as he did start against Charlton at the start of March, but has been missing since with a reoccurrence of the injury.
He’s been a massive loss for Sunderland too. The Mackems are unbeaten in the eight league games he’s started, earning an average of 2 points per game. When he’s not been available though, Sunderland have averaged just 1.38 points per game (from 21 games) and currently sit outside the play-off positions in seventh.
If he can get himself fit before the end of the season, though, Broadhead might be able to drag Sunderland back up to the Championship.
Lewis Gibson – Sheffield Wednesday
Another promising player in League One who’s had his season hampered by injury.
Gibson join Sheffield Wednesday but saw just 45 minutes of action until February due to injury problems. He then made two substitute appearances, before starting in a 5-2 win over Burton (when he lined up again a certain Oumar Niasse!) and a 6-0 thumping of Cambridge.
Sadly, he’s missed the last three games through injury once more.
Wednesday are one place and two points above Broadhead’s Sunderland, so the two could yet meet in the play-offs, if they can get fit.
Gibson’s Everton contract runs out if the summer, but the club have an option to extend it by one more year.
Ellis Simms - Hearts
Simms made his long-awaited Everton debut in December – being throw in the deep to start against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
But the big striker was whisked out on the second loan spell of his career in January (following a spell at Blackpool in League One last year) by joining Hearts in the SPL – where’s he’s now playing alongside Beni Baningime – who’s revived his career in Scotland.
And 21-year-old Simms has done well so far in Scotland too. He’s started nine out of 12 games since he joined and has brought on at half-time in two of the other games. In those games he’s scored a reasonable four goals
Hearts sit in third place – 20 points behind Celtic, but 14 points ahead of Dundee United in fourth – so it’s safe to say they have nothing to play for in the league with seven league games remaining.
However, their focus will be placed squarely on the Scottish Cup, where they meet local rivals Hibs in the semis in April, with the winner facing Celtic or Rangers in the final. There’s a chance for Simms to write himself into Hearts’ folklore, with the club bidding to win the cup for the first time since 2012.
Simms has a contract at Everton until 2024 and probably needs one more big and successful loan spell (ideally in the Championship) before seriously having a shot at consistent first-team football at Everton.
See Simms first goal vs Motherwell
Lewis Warrington - Tranmere Rovers
19-year-old midfielder Lewis Warrington made a deadline day move to Tranmere in January, with the Wirral-born player in very familiar surroundings at Prenton Park in League Two.
He’s scored one and assisted twice in 10 games since joining Tranmere and has become a fan favourite at Tranmere due to his classy style and incisive passing.
Warrington, whose Everton contract expires at the end of the season, admitted in an interview with the Echo that he’s “learnt more in my last six games than I have in my whole career”. Take note Everton – stop holding players back in the 23s for multiple seasons.
See Warrington two assists (number 19) vs Mansfield:
Jean-Philippe Gbamin – CSKA Moscow
Forgotten man Jean-Philippe Gbamin joined CSKA Moscow towards the end of February and has hit the ground running in Russia. He’s started all five games he’s been available for CSKA, missing just 3 minutes of action when he was subbed towards the end of their 2-1 cup win over Sochi. And that’s not all… CSKA have won all five of those games, which has seen them climb up to third in the league.
This run of form has put them within six points of leaders Zenit St Petersburg with eight games to go. Admittedly, it’s probably out of their reach, but if they keep winning games, you never know. In their recent 6-1 win over Rubin Kazan, Gbamin was fundamental – scoring and providing an assist. Couldn’t be going better for the Ivorian so far – which is great news for Everton. He’s making a case for a real chance at the Blues in the summer and – even if that’s not realistic – at least his market value is increasing once again.