Digne sale is another big gamble by Everton

Well, it’s finally happened and French international left-back Lucas Digne has left Everton to join Premier League rivals Aston Villa.

This transfer is one I don’t think any Everton supporters would have anticipated seeing happen at the start of this season. And, despite his indifferent form recently, it’s not one that the majority would probably have wanted.

Over the last couple of seasons though, I don’t think Digne hasn’t been anywhere near the player that the Toffees originally signed from Barcelona back in summer 2018.

I’ve been a critic of his performances and I think as I’ve previously said, he has been somewhat coasting in the team without any real pressure on him, especially in the absence of other strong alternatives in his position.

However, the 28-year-old is certainly a very talented footballer who has some considerable strengths, particularly his attacking and creative abilities from the flank. So, ideally I would have hoped that he could still have a role to play in helping the Blues improve under yet another new manager, even if that meant a change in position.

In truth though, once the player and that manager, Rafa Benitez, had so obviously had a falling out, it was always more and more likely that Digne would leave Merseyside.

Benitez is renowed for his stubborness and determination to get his own way and so far he’s been backed to the hilt by the club, not least in their decision at the end of last year to remove Marcel Brands from his post so giving Benitez much greater influence over transfer policy.

That led to the swift decision to bring in a new left-back in Vitalli Mykolenko as soon as the January window opened. This represented the moment when it became crystal clear to everyone that Digne was moving on.

And, the reality now is that he is gone and is a Villa player. The fee is claimed to be around £25 million which is the minimum acceptable and at least represents a decent financial return.

Losing a player of his calibre and an established international is significant and it is another major gamble by Everton.

On the one hand getting £25 million for a 28-year-old defender who has been below par for a long time and has made it clear he wants to leave the club, isn’t bad business.

But, you are losing a footballer of real talent and experience and one who can still command a place in the current World Champions squad.

Of course, it being Everton the likelihood is that Digne will prove a brilliant acquisition for Villa and will be the player that the Toffees had a few years ago, one who was arguably the best full-back in the Premier League.

You just know too that he’s going to have a barnstorming match when he returns to Goodison Park next weekend wearing the claret and blue of his new employers!

Now the pressure increases in Mykolenko to prove and quickly that he really is as good as we all hope and fill that gap left by the Frenchman’s departure. That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old who’s never played outside his native Ukraine before.

There’s another aspect to all this as well. Seeing Digne’s relationship with Benitez deteriorate so quickly and him leave so easily will worry Evertonians.

There are other strong-willed and ambitious players in the squad who might look at this and wonder whether they will be next and if it’s worth sticking around to find out.

I’m thinking of individuals like Richarlison who has previously stated he would seek a move away if things weren’t improving enough at the club and who is anyway a difficult character to deal with at times.

I have previously argued that if the right sort of fee was offered the Blues should be prepared to sell assets such as Richarlison, who anyway is almost certain to want to go in the summer.

While it might not be very palatable to accept, the truth is Everton are ultimately a selling club at the moment, as in fact are all clubs other than the so-called top six.

But, we don’t want players regularly falling out with the manager and being pushed out too quickly and with the club not neccessarily able to manage the exit of the player to their full advantage.

One thing is certain that the club are now increasingly reliant on Benitez’s judgement proving correct, particularly without any other prominent voices to rival his.

His stubborn determination to get his way is proving disruptive (whether that turns out to be effective or not) and it looks as though this club’s immediate future is becoming ever more dependent on him getting it right.