Liverpool FC could be forgiven for thinking that they had heard the last of a Gerard playing in Merseyside however last month, neighbours Everton snapped up Barcelona under-21 winger Gerard Deulofeu for a fee of €6m euros. But what does £4.3m in old money buy the Toffees and what can he bring to a team whose tactics were woefully exposed last season?
Everton have done more than research their latest acquisition. Roberto Martinez took Deulofeu on loan back in his freshman season as manager and he proved to be a firm fan favourite during his time at Goodison making 25 appearances and scoring four goals, his first being on his debut against Stevenage in the League Cup second round. Gerard was unfortunately injured during part of the campaign but returned to his homeland on good terms with the club and supporters alike. It was assumed that the winger would migrate into the Barca senior squad seamlessly but he was quickly sent back on loan to Sevilla where his form diminished and the wheels were set in motion for an eventual Everton return which seemed to suit all parties.
In terms of position, Deulofeu's arrival will provide some much needed competition in midfield and players such as Leon Osman, Aiden McGeady and to a lesser extent, Steven Naismith will find their favoured positions under threat. It would be an understatement to point out the lack of goals/assists that the middle-men converted last season but for the statistic voyeurs amongst you, not one midfielder in the squad managed more than 3 assists and only Mirallas scored more than 2 goals. That is a woeful return for a team that strives to be a constant mainstay in the top half of the league.
With a potentially fully fit squad plus Deulofeu to play with as August 8th rolls around, Roberto Martinez is in the envious position of having some difficult decisions to make in terms of formation and squad selection. Nearly everyone has something to prove from a disappointing league campaign last season. The fan favourite formation would be 4-1-3-1 with a holding defensive midfielder. That would give Gerard a chance to shine on the right hand side of the field. The other option would be a standard 4-4-2 where he could also play alongside Lukaku as a makeshift forward although Naismith would understandably lay claim to both of those, with workhorse-esque performances 8 goals last year. In form Seamus Coleman may also feel put out as his usual strategy of tearing down the right side of the pitch and attacking the corner of the penalty area could be hampered by the arrival of Deulofeu and that could play a pivotal part in his upcoming decision whether to follow Fellaini to Old Trafford. This must be avoided at all costs and his playing style must be adhered to avoid losing one of Everton's most prized assets.
Over the last few years, Deulofeu has quickly risen through the ranks of Spain's junior squads and is now on the precipice of the senior national side. But as former Evertonian captain Mikel Arteta can attest to in the past, playing well for your domestic side doesn't necessarily win you a call up, especially if you play for an English side. Of the current national
Spanish squad, only four play in England and Deulofeu may learn that only an astronomical debut season would break that trend. The ultimate downside for Everton is that Barcelona have a sensible buy back/first refusal option in place if Deulofeu proves to be a hit. With that in mind, his ultimate dream of playing for the Catalan giants remains somewhat intact.
Some experts and pundits have lazily dubbed him 'the new Cristiano Ronaldo' and if by some miracle he lives up to that comparison, don't expect to see him playing against Stevenage in a couple of years time.