You could make an argument that Everton never really replaced either Ross Barkley or Idrissa Gueye as they fell away from top six contenders to relegation candidates in the last five years. Both players were sorely missed during that sharp decline, with the local-born Barkley’s goals and creativity and the Senegal international Gana’s tenacious tackling going away contributing to the Blues downfall.
However, the transfer rumour mill has both players making somewhat shock returns to Merseyside. Earlier today the ever-reliable El Bobble seemed to indicate that the Toffees were talking to Paris Saint Germain about bringing back the midfielder with Gana failing to establish himself as a permanent fixture for last season’s runaway French champions.
The former Lille player left the Blues in 2019 to pursue his dream move with a switch to PSG, but was never suited to their possession-based style of play. Having spent the bulk of his career as a ball-hunter with Aston Villa and then Everton, Gana has not been as crucial a player for the French side and their galaxy of superstars. He has racked up 111 appearances in those three years however, lifting the Ligue 1 title and the French Cup twice, as well as the French League Cup and the French Super Cup.
Everton have struggled at the central defensive midfield position since his departure, with a succession of players including Morgan Schneiderlin, Allan, Tom Davies, Andre Gomes and more all struggling to hold down the fort in front of the backline in recent years. The Blues have been linked with a few players this summer transfer window, but only a couple of them are proper defensive midfielders (Guido Rodriguez, Aster Vrancx) while a couple of others are central midfielders who could possibly fit the bill but on a possession-heavy side (Harry Winks, Billy Gilmour).
The Toffees financial situation means they will be unable to splurge at any one position with needs in so many areas, so the season-loan being offered would be most welcome, and a risk-free way for the Blues to bolster the defensive midfield with one more season on the player’s contract.
The reunion chatter didn’t end there though. Another notable Everton ITK (‘in the know’) on Twitter is Watched Toffee, and he seemed to indicate that the Blues were looking to bring back Ross Barkley despite the fractious manner of the born-and-raised Blue departing the club.
The 2016-17 season under Ronald Koeman proved to be a real roller-coaster for Barkley. He was criticized often by the manager, praised equally frequently, played inspired football and then promptly disappeared for stretches, delighted and frustrated the fans in equal measures, and even found himself on the unfortunate end of two personal attacks, one physical and the other via a now-banned tabloid. His decision to not sign a new contract with one year left pretty much laid the cards out on the table for the Toffees.
For those with shorter memories or those who have chosen to forget how Barkley short-changed the club he purportedly loves, the now 28-year-old then refused a transfer to Chelsea in the summer of 2017, only to rupture a hamstring early the next season. He would then go on to complete his physical rehabilitation at Finch Farm before agreeing to a move to Chelsea like a thief in the night that winter, for a transfer fee to Chelsea of less than half of what Everton were getting for him previously, and forever earning him the moniker ‘rat’.
Frank Lampard chose to send him out on loan when he was in charge at Chelsea, and the Stamford Bridge side are desperate to shed wages under their new ownership, so it will be interesting to see how much they can sweeten the pot to send Barkley back to Everton with one year left in his contract as well.
Neither move would be a game-changer for the Blues, but with the new rule changes that allow for five substitutions, Lampard will need proven and reliable reinforcements on the bench that can come on and hold the fort down this season. As we saw often last season, injuries, suspensions and the like have the potential to scupper the campaign right from the outset so having a solid squad will be of critical importance if the Toffees are attempting to not be part of the relegation battle later on.