Everton were dealt a crushing blow this week as their industrious vice-captain, Lucas Digne, was ruled out for at least two months after picking up an injury during training.
Sky Sports soon reported that the 27-year-old would undergo surgery having suffered ankle ligament damage. A cruel sucker-punch ahead of a tough run of fixtures, which begins with hosting Leeds United at Goodison Park this evening.
The Frenchman has become a crucial part of Carlo Ancelotti’s line-up and has only missed five matches since his arrival from Barcelona in 2018, one game being earlier this season through suspension.
However, despite all the doom and gloom, the Toffees could well be fine in his absence thanks to some magic from director of football Marcel Brands this summer.
Not only did he deliver a whole new midfield in the shape of James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan, but too a promising young left-back who has the potential to be Digne’s long-term heir.
Everton snagged Niels Nkounkou from Marseille’s grasp on a free-transfer as the 20-year-old rejected a professional deal with the Ligue 1 giants in favour of playing for Ancelotti.
Have to say @Everton transfer business this summer has been excellent but it’s not only the household names that have impressed me, Niels Nkounkou is some player.
A magnificent find. Bright future ahead and Digne has someone pushing him.
— Stephen Warnock⚽️📺🎙 (@StephenWarnock3) September 23, 2020
We have already got a few glimpses of the young left-back this term. He has started all three games in the Carabao Cup, helping contribute to three resounding victories, whilst he also covered for Digne during the defeat at Newcastle.
A Premier League debut at St James’ Park isn’t the easiest of starts.
Arguably, his best game in a Toffees shirt came against Salford City where he recorded a 7.4 rating by SofaScore after two tackles, two interceptions, three key passes and four successful dribbles.
After announcing his transfer, Brands claimed: “Niels is a young, talented player with good technical and physical skills. We have been following him for months.”
Whilst Jeremy Smith of the French Football Weekly podcast has likened him to one Man City star, he said: “He is a little like a Benjamin Mendy in that he is strong, has a great engine and can patrol the whole flank all match and has a decent shot and cross on him too. He’s also a little raw though, and needs to work a lot on his positioning and particularly his concentration.”
He may not be Digne, but he is certainly a decent back-up to have. You could only imagine the chaos at Finch Farm right now if they didn’t sign Nknounkou this summer.
AND in other news, Ancelotti must offload Everton outcast this January, already cost over £40m…