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Everton Refocus on Boulaye Dia - A Scouting Report

The Blues turn to the Salernitana striker with the race for El Bilal Touré lost

AS Roma v Salernitana - Serie A Photo by Ivan Romano/Getty Images

Everton’s long-running pursuit of El Bilal Touré, their primary striker target this summer, appears to have reached its conclusion, with news appearing that the 21-year old Villarreal player is poised to join former Blue Ademola Lookman at Atalanta. Consequently, the club’s attention has turned to other solutions to their problems of depth and reliability up front.

Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho is one, but another is the oft-linked Boulaye Dia, recently signed by Serie A side Salernitana following a highly successful season-long loan from... Villarreal.

Showing French Promise

The then 21-year old Dia broke into the Stade Reims first team during the 2018-19 season, after demonstrating an impressive eye for goal in the lower reaches of French football. By the following campaign, he’d established himself as a regular in the side, but came of age in 2020-21, scoring 14 league goals in 36 appearances, one-third of the club’s total. Such form earned the forward a €12m move to La Liga outfit Villarreal in the summer of 2021.

Troubles in Spain

Dia’s single year in Spain proved a frustrating one. Initially paired with Gerard Moreno, a slow start culminated in a knee injury which sidelined the Senegal international for a month. Upon his return, he continued to struggle for form, until finally scoring three in two matches at the turn of the year - immediately before heading off to AFCON. He returned from international duty to find himself on the bench, behind none other than new Everton man Arnaut Danjuma.

The French-born forward never really got going again, although he did partake in his first taste of Champions League football, earning limited minutes but signing off with a start - and a goal - in Villarreal’s semi-final second leg defeat to Liverpool. So, with five goals (5.4 xG) and five assists (2.4 xA) in 25 La Liga appearances (just 13 starts) Dia moved again, this time on loan to Italian side Salernitana last summer.

Villarreal v Liverpool Semi Final Leg Two - UEFA Champions League
Dia signs off on a high scoring against Liverpool in Villarreal’s Champions League Semi-Final exit
Photo by Aitor Alcalde - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

An Italian Relaunch

If a move to Spain had never really got going, then the opposite proved true last season. Hardly one of the Italian game’s heavyweights, Salernitana had barely escaped the drop during the previous campaign (their first in the top flight for 23 years) and had scored a pitiful 33 goals. Dia got to work improving that side of things immediately, firing three goals in his first three starts, following a debut from the bench.

Whilst the team itself was no great shakes, finishing 15th, the player enjoyed a breakout season, ending up with 16 goals (8.8 xG) in 33 appearances (27 starts), contributing an additional six assists (3.1 xA). He ended up as the third highest scorer in Serie A, behind only big names in Victor Osimhen and Lautaro Martinez, who play for champions Napoli and third-placed Inter respectively. Unsurprisingly, the club exercised their option to sign Dia permanently on July 1st, for approximately €12m.


Noteworthy is that Dia does not take a lot of shots on goal: in fact, with just 1.68 per 90 he falls in the bottom sixth percentile across major European league and continental competition. However, in terms of accuracy, he hits the target with 44.7% of his efforts (in the 76th percentile) and his conversion rate is a staggering 0.32, putting him in the 99th percentile; using an alternative metric, he leads all 305 forwards (amassing at least 1,000 minutes of action) in clinical finishing. His non-penalty xG per 90 is a more moderate 0.31 (33rd), but it must be taken into account that he played in a relatively weak offensive side last term (sound familiar?).

In an essentially counterattacking team, his 31.63 touches per 90 (36th percentile) and an anaemic 2.68 (bottom percentile) in the opposition area is probably more indicative of Salernitana defending deep without much possession, more than anything. When he has the ball he is able to take it forward (66th percentile in progressive carries), though he is at best middle of the pack when it comes to beating his man on the dribble; he ranks 149 from 305 as regards offensive duel success. The Senegalese is more than competent in using the ball, his passing accuracy of 76.2% ranking him 80th from 305 examined forwards and in the 83rd percentile as per

One area that Dia can be found lacking is in the air. Standing a little over 5’10 his success rate in aerial duels is a weak 25.6% (bottom sixth percentile); none of his 16 goals last term came with his head.

Salernitana v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A
Dia celebrates completing a hattrick against Fiorentina in May
Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images


Will he be a good fit for Everton?

The 26 year old is a versatile player, who has played in a front two or as a lone striker during his two most successful campaigns, at Reims and Salernitana. He is primarily right-footed, though will readily take shots (and score) with his left if the position is superior - bending a few in around the goalkeeper last term. The Senegalese is quick, travels well with the ball and although not particularly big and powerful, is sturdy enough to ride challenges. He makes well-timed runs off the shoulder of the last defender, but will drop into space to elude attention when required and attack from a deeper position.

Dia could certainly be paired alongside Dominic Calvert-Lewin, whom he would probably complement quite well, or lead the line himself. He has played wide and as a supporting striker on rare occasions, but is essentially a centre forward. What he is not is a target man - at least not in the sense of attacking crosses in the box - though he is adept at getting on the end of through balls and occupying the attention of defenders with his intelligent movement. Mobile and comfortable with both feet, he makes an unpredictable opponent.

What the 26-year-old showed last season is that he is a predatory striker, able to pull off one-touch finishes, attack the back post, get off a quick shot or try his luck from slightly further out. His xG (Expected Goals) statistic in Serie A was 8.8, but he bagged 16 goals, which is a quite spectacular overachievement. To dispel the suspicion that this may be a fluke it is worth noting that he also exceeded his xG during his last season in France, so it appears he is simply a strong converter of chances.

He can be a little loose when trying to beat his man, which Sean Dyche won’t be thrilled with, but his Italian side sat deep and played on the counter, which meant he would have had to do a lot more carrying the ball progressively than you’d imagine would be the case at Everton. If the Blues manager intends to focus the attack on crossing the ball into the box from wide areas, then this won’t suit Dia (at least if he’s ploughing a lone furrow up top), but in a more varied system he should thrive.

Assuming Neal Maupay (who Salernitana have expressed interest in) can go the other way and mitigate some of the transfer fee, then the Toffees will be hard-pushed to find a better option to solve their woes in the attacking third than Dia.

Stats provided courtesy of and with special thanks for the additional analysis provided by Ryan Williams of the American Toffee Podcast.