Everton should do all they can to keep their best young players

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Amadou Onana of Everton runs with the ball during the Premier League match between Everton FC and AFC Bournemouth at Goodison Park on May 28, 2023 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Amadou Onana of Everton runs with the ball during the Premier League match between Everton FC and AFC Bournemouth at Goodison Park on May 28, 2023 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images) /

Inevitably, after Everton secured their Premier League status again with that final day 1-0 win over Bournemouth, rumours of transfers in and out have begun again.

One of the players who might be exiting Goodison Park, is midfielder Amadou Onana. The Belgian international only joined last summer, but rumours of his departure have been circulating for a while now as the Toffees struggles continued.

In my view Everton must try to keep their best young talent and Onana, despite being a very young and raw player, certainly is a talent.

The financial position the club is in may well dictate that these youngsters are given more opportunity.

The Blues obviously need experience too, but they have players such as Seamus Coleman, Conor Coady (if they both stay), Jordan Pickford, James Tarkowski, Idrissa Gueye and Abdoulaye Doucoure who provide plenty of Premier League experience.

One experienced player the club have to replace though is Yerry Mina. That will be tough, not just for his defensive qualities but also his leadership, something in very short supply in this team.

Returning to Onana, he was a £30 million purchase last summer as then Everton manager Frank Lampard appeared to pip West Ham to the 20-year-old’s signature.

He had already got into the Belgian team under former Blues boss Roberto Martinez and was being touted as one of Europe’s best young players.

Onana brought added height, power and athleticism, all modern midfield qualities which the Toffees certainly needed a lot more of.

At first he struggled a bit to get up to pace in the Premier League and at times seemed a little lost in the team.

However, he also showed the ability he possesses with some great defensive work, crunching tackles and surging, lung-busting runs forward.

The Belgian was excellent against Arsenal in Sean Dyche’s first game, for example.

Part of the issue is that no one seemed sure of his best position and his first manager Lampard changed his role from a deeper lying defensive player to a more advanced one in other games.

That though was part of the problem with his management as a whole.

Stories linking him with other clubs, particularly Manchester United and Chelsea, have been in circulation for months now and it is certainly possible he will leave this summer.

There is a strong case for cashing in on Onana in the upcoming transfer window, given the club’s dire finances, and he has intimated he might be on his way.

Let’s be realistic, if one of the so-called ‘top’ clubs comes in with a big bid of around £60 – £70 million or more for him, then it will be very hard for Everton to turn it down.

But, he has only had a year at Goodison and if he can be persuaded to stay for another year and the club are able to find a way to finance new signings in another way, then they should seriously consider it.

Another young player who might well be leaving Merseyside this summer is defender Jarrad Branthwaite.

The centre-back has been on loan in Holland with PSV Eindhoven and has impressed, making considerable strides in his development while playing in the Eredivisie.

So much so, that the Dutch club wanted to keep him and apparently did table a bid for the former Carlise player who signed for the Blues in January 2020. But, Everton rejected it.

I for one didn’t want to see him leave on loan in the first place, although to be fair it does seem to have improved him.

And while loans can sometimes be beneficial, I was a little perplexed that the Toffees let him and other talented youngsters like Lewis Dobbin and Tom Cannon leave so readily.

Especially in Dobbin and Cannon’s case when Everton were struggling so much up front and surely needed every available goal-scoring option.

True, they were pretty much untried in the Premier League and giving them game time would have been risky, but you are never going to know about young players if they don’t get an opportunity.

Having both these forwards in the squad also might have been useful over the last few months with Everton having so much trouble getting Dominic Calvert-Lewin on the pitch, at least as options off the bench.

In Branthwaite’s case he had made a number of appearances for the Blues and although he struggled at times, his pace, positional sense and comfort on the ball were there for all to see.

He’s also left-footed giving Sean Dyche a natural balance to his central defence and a different option, particularly useful if he wants to play a back-three.

Given his improvement after his time in Holland, Branthwaite does look like he could be a genuinely good defender and I think he will have a solid future in the Premier League.

There are going to be difficult decisions made in the summer about the future of a whole host of current Toffees players.

While tough choices are inevitable, and the need for ready-made players who can come in and perform well from the start is clear, I think Everton still need a core of young talent that they can build around for the longer-term.

I would rather consistently under-performing players like Micheal Keane, Vitalii Mykolenko, Tom Davies and perhaps Alex Iwobi were moved on first – although it’s true none will likely fetch much in fees – rather than these promising youngsters.