A return for Gerard Deulofeu to Everton for next season always looked a long shot. The reshuffling of manager at Barcelona – Luis Enrique replacing Tata Martino – will precede the overhauling of a squad in dire need of fresh faces.
And Barcelona have a lot of reason to be impressed by Everton and Roberto Martinez’s handling of Deulofeu last term. A loan move was always on the cards for the Spanish winger, but the confirmation of a switch to Everton and the Premier League was greeted with much scepticism: was the Premier League the ideal fit when another La Liga club made much more sense? In hindsight, it was a brilliant move for all concerned.
Everton will of course feel a little hard done by. Martinez took the right approach in easing Deulofeu into first-team action, allowing for full acclimatisation to an unfamiliar country. But when the youngster did finally get starts under his belt and looked every bit capable of helping Everton to a top four finish, he was cut down by injury, missing eight weeks.
But it’s that stint in the Everton team that has convinced Barcelona and Enrique to hang onto the La Masia graduate, once considered capable of matching Lionel Messi’s brilliance. Along with Deulofeu, Rafinha, the younger brother of Thiago Alcantara, will join up with the Barcelona first-team squad after impressing on loan at Celta Vigo last season.
But it’s not all down hill from here for Everton. While Deulofeu is out of the question, Barcelona teammate Cristian Tello is very much on the table and reportedly available for loan – which will suit both clubs once again.
Tello struggled to find regular match time last season under Martino, in spite of a string of impressive showings under Tito Vilanova the season before. The winger, capable on either flank, had an extraordinary conversion rate during the 2012-13 season, hitting seven goals from 12 shots on target.
It’s also odd that Martino saw little value in Tello. The Spaniard doesn’t really fit the mould of a typical Barcelona player. He’s direct, leaning on his pace, shooting and delivery more than the type of passing mastery exhibited by Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. It’s odd the Martino overlooked him because Alexis Sanchez, a similarly direct player, saw his best season at the Camp Nou under the former head coach.
Tello’s talent, however, can be told by the interest held in him by various Premier League clubs, including Liverpool and Tottenham. This is a player who was introduced to the Champions League under Pep Guardiola. One of his highlights was scoring twice in a 7-1 win against Bayer Leverkusen. Unfortunately for Tello, his efforts were shadowed by Messi’s five-goal performance.
This is a fantastic alternative to Deulofeu for Everton. He may be slight, raising concerns, naturally, for his suitability for the Premier League. But the changing landscape of the English top flight, where many diminutive Spaniards are thriving, favours the 22-year-old.
Once again, Tello will offer firepower to a squad in need of replacing the goals of Romelu Lukaku next season. Due to his familiarity with first-team football at Barcelona, as well as at international level with Spain’s U21 team, there shouldn’t be much requirement for Martinez to hold off on giving Tello his first start in the way he did with Deulofeu.
It’s difficult to see Tello as having a future at the Camp Nou; Deulofeu’s place at the club over the coming years always looked more assured. But Martinez looks on the brink of completing another highly favourable deal, which could eventually lead to the permanent signing of Tello if he impresses.