David Unsworth has sung the praises of Everton’s Katia Kouyate and backed the teen sensation to become an Under 23s regular at Finch Farm next season.
Kouyate earned his U23s debut on the right-flank of Unsworth’s side as Everton’s young prospects drew with Blackburn Rovers last Friday, with a late equaliser from Tyler Onyango enough to counter Brad Lyons’ first-half opener.
Kouyate had been a regular of the Blues’ U18s already this term with three starts in five appearances, but without nailing down a set role in Paul Tait’s plans with his outings shared at centre-forward and on the wing.
Tait was in attendance as Kouyate enjoyed 63-minutes on the field as he earned his U23s debut last week, in a display which caught Unsworth’s attention with the Toffees chief admitting he was “proud” to see the 17-year-old make the step up.
“I was delighted with Katia,” Unsworth told the Liverpool Echo. “He made his debut and showed some glimpses, some real flashes of pace and directness and power. Once he gets up to the level of Under 23 football, he’s going to be a good player. I was delighted. He did himself no harm and I’m very proud of him.”
Unsworth has now challenged Kouyate to cement a role for himself in the coming 12-months, with Rhys Hughes, Mackenzie Hunt and Sebastian Quirk all used in wide positions this season.
“A place is up for grabs,” he added. “If it’s [in the] front-three or wide attacking player, Kouyate can even play through the middle or off the left. He has great power, is good in the air and once he finishes the season with us and has another pre-season with us, we’re hopeful he’ll be another regular member of the U23s moving forward.”
With Kouyate only just making the step up to Unsworth’s Under 23s, his journey to the first team may still be a while off but his development will no doubt have caught Carlo Ancelotti’s attention as Italian monitors the situation in Everton’s academy.
Kouyate rarely featured under Tait last term with just one start in three U18 Premier League appearances, yet has proven enough in training for Unsworth to start the winger against Blackburn and displayed enough at home to Rovers for the U23s boss to consider him ready to challenge his more established teammates for a future role.
His rapid progress will be something Ancelotti will eagerly track, too, having offered an assist against Sunderland in his sole U18 Premier League start last season while bringing versatility, power and an aerial threat to the U23s last week.
Should the 17-year-old forward continue his progress at his current rate, it will not be long before he is considered as a potential heir to James Rodriguez at Goodison Park, with the summer signing already tipped to outgrow Everton just months on from joining.
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