Everton should not rue their decision to sell Nikola Vlasic to CSKA Moscow in 2019 as Marco Silva’s refusal to back the Croatian looks like it might have been the right call.
Vlasic moved to Goodison Park in 2017, after impressing former Toffees manager Ronald Koeman and then-Director of Football Steve Walsh during a Europa League qualifying tie with his boyhood club Hajduk Split.
Silva instantly sent Vlasic on loan to CSKA upon his arrival on Merseyside, having felt the midfielder’s efforts under Koeman and later Sam Allardyce were not up to scratch.
The move worked out for Vlasic, with the now 17-cap full international scoring eight times and offering seven assists in 31 appearances. But it was still not enough for Silva, who agreed to let the Split-native move to Russia permanently in the summer of 2019 for £14m.
Now, just 20-months on, Vlasic claims he’s worth £16m more than what Everton sold him for, having hit home 13 times and offered seven assists last season, with nine goals and six assists to his name after 23 games this term.
“I know that some clubs already wanted to buy me, but CSKA said they would not let me go if they didn’t pay €35m (£30m),” he said, via quotes by soccer.ru, earlier this week. “This is the buy-out clause in my contract. €35m is a lot of money for the Russian Premier Liga.”
But as impressive as Vlasic’s overall record has been in Russia since joining CSKA Moscow in a permanent deal, Silva and Walsh’ successor Marcel Brands were right to sanction his exit.
During his time on loan at the VEB Arena in 2018/19, Russian football expert John Bradley – who had been ESPN’s Premier Liga commentator for over a decade – explained how Vlasic was not the shining light CSKA had expected.
“With Vlasic, he was supposed to be one of the main players and be a significant factor in the team,” Bradley told the Liverpool Echo. “Has he been? People will say he’s scored against Real Madrid, but I think probably you’d expect better from him.
“They had a couple of really good results against Madrid but then they play Roma, and he goes missing. It’s really disappointing. He’s quite enjoyed going in there and being a big fish in a small pond after getting swallowed up at Everton, and he’s done alright. That’s the best way to term it.”
The big fish in a small pond has continued to be just that in the year-and-a-half since clearing out his locker at Finch Farm for the final time, with Vlasic still unable to take his talents to the biggest stage.
Despite facing some of the lower-calibre sides in this season’s Europa League, Vlasic could only record a single assist against Austrian Bundesliga outfit Wolfsberger AC and failed to have any involvement in the scoring against GNK Dinamo Zagreb or Feyenoord Rotterdam.
It was a similar story last term, with La Liga side RCD Espanyol Barcelona the only outfit that the 23-year-old could score against, while penning a single assist at PFK Ludogorets Razgrad and offering no input over Hungarian club Ferencvarosi TC.
If Vlasic was to prove that Everton made a mistake in letting him leave after a season under Koeman and Allardyce, plus a somewhat successful year on loan, it was in Europe where he had to stamp his mark.
But Silva and Brands are only being proven right by his performances since, and it was a stroke of genius to cash in on his loan spell to make Everton a marginal profit.
AND in other news, Everton face European competition to sign a £35m target this summer…