Niels Nkounkou has every right to be furious with Carlo Ancelotti after the Everton boss opted to omit the young full-back from his matchday squad at Burnley on Saturday.
Ancelotti is without star defender Lucas Digne for the foreseeable future after the Frenchman was forced to undergo surgery, having sustained an ankle ligament injury in training.
The Toffees fear Digne will be out for up to three months but Ancelotti expressed belief in his other options last month, despite the inexperienced Nkounkou being his only recognised alternative.
Ancelotti doubled down on his support of Nkounkou ahead of Saturday’s trip to Burnley, even though he fielded Alex Iwobi at full-back in the 1-0 loss to Leeds United, claiming the 20-year-old would earn minutes at Turf Moor.
“Nkounkou was not in the squad because I have 11 players, I decided to put Iwobi on the left. The squad is really big,” the Italian said, via quotes by the Liverpool Echo.
“He’s still young, he needs more experience, he needs to work more. But I am honestly satisfied for what he is doing. He will have time in the next game because we have a lot of games.”
Yet Ancelotti chose against naming Nkounkou in his 18-man squad to face Burnley with Fabian Delph stepping in at left-back, as he did for Manchester City on 13 occasions in his final season at the Etihad before joining Everton for £10million in 2019.
But the 31-year-old pulled up in the first half as Everton trailed 1-0, forcing Ancelotti into a reshuffle with centre-half Ben Godfrey moving to the left of a four-man defence and Iwobi coming in at right-back.
Nkounkou will be fuming with Ancelotti to have not gotten a chance to prove his first-team worth at Turf Moor, even just from the bench, having arrived from Olympique de Marseille in the summer after Everton saw their options dwindle following Leighton Baines retiring.
The Toffees were lauded for signing Nkounkou in the off-season, with former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock hailing the Frenchman as a “magnificent find”. But questions are now being raised over his chances of seeing out the season on Merseyside, with suggestions the £2.7m-rated gem could look to secure a loan deal this winter.
Nkounkou has only featured for 69 minutes in the Premier League this season but his talents are not questioned by those who have played alongside him, with Marseille full-back Jordan Amavi backing the youngster to shine in the future.
“He has a lot of qualities, I find that he is a powerful player, technically he is quite comfortable,” Amavi said, via quotes by Foot 01.
“Afterwards, he has to work; he is still young. As for succeeding elsewhere, maybe he would have had his chance, he could have played. But he was not launched, he made the choice to leave, it is his decision, good for him, I do not worry, he will have a very good career.”
It remains to be seen when – or if – Ancelotti will next offer Nkounkou the chance to demonstrate those skills in Royal Blue with the Toffees hosting title-chasing Chelsea in their next Premier League fixture.