Everton’s Under-23 side is littered with potential stars of the future.
David Unsworth has just led his young guns to the Premier League 2 title, where a number of his key players will be knocking on Marco Silva’s door in hope of a first-team place in the near future.
One man, or boy, who will perhaps have a better chance than most of getting such an opportunity is 19-year-old goalkeeper Joao Virginia.
The Portuguese glovesman was signed from Arsenal last summer, whom he joined after breaking through the ranks at Benfica’s academy – facilities that have housed the likes of Jan Oblak, Ederson and Julio Cesar in years gone by.
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Why he was allowed to leave the Emirates Stadium in the first place should concern fans of the Gunners, but their loss is the Toffees’ gain.
Silva has already said that the teenager is too good for the Under-23 side, claiming that Virginia is ‘at another level’ despite his youthful age; the former Hull boss is yet to make a decision on whether the shot-stopper will leave on loan or challenge Jordan Pickford.
Virginia’s impact in Unsworth’s Under-23 side was so instantaneously impressive that it merited a standing ovation from his teammates in the dressing room after his debut against Leicester.
After that match, Unsworth said: “Outstanding, absolutely outstanding.
“He’s a great lad, got great English, he’s commanding and what he’s done tonight is set a standard I’ve not seen at this level from a goalkeeper.”
With Maarten Stekelenburg’s name amongst a list of players expected to leave Goodison Park this summer, Virginia should definitely be considered as a replacement for the experienced Dutchman in the first-team ranks.
A loan would give him some invaluable experience, but whilst currently being trained under former Benfica goalkeeping coach Hugo Olivera and training with the first-team, this precocious talent should be kept on Merseyside.