Although Leighton Baines's understudy, Bryan Oviedo, was sold to Sunderland in January 2017, it wasn't until July the following year that Everton finally signed a viable replacement in the form of Lucas Digne.
In the interim, Baines suffered a calf strain that sidelined him for many weeks in the 2017-18 campaign and necessitated nominal right back Cuco Martina to deputise while the team struggled for results under three managers – Ronald Koeman, David Unsworth and Sam Allardyce.
It was the Dutchman's permanent replacement, Marco Silva, backed by new Director of Football, Marcel Brands, who finally addressed a glaring hole in the Toffees' squad when Digne signed a
5-year deal after a fee, reported to be worth £18m with £2m in appearance-related add-ons, was agreed with the Spanish giants. He took the number 12
shirt vacated by Aaron Lennon the previous season.
A one-time team-mate of Idrissa Gueye at Lille where he began his career, Digne was signed by Paris Saint-Germain in 2013. He played 29 times for them over the next two seasons before being loaned to Roma for a season where he attracted the attention of Barcelona.
The Blaugrana acquired him in a £13.8m deal in 2016 whereupon Digne signed a
5-year contract and made another 29 appearances over the following couple of years.
Capped 21 times by his country, he was on the standby list for France's ultimately victorious 2018 World Cup squad prior to his move to Goodison Park where his form in his first season in the Premier League would earn him a recall to his country's first team.
Fulfilling the brief of replacing Leighton Baines to a tee, Digne weighed in with four goals, two of them from spectacular free-kicks, and would finish the season as the top flight's top crosser in 2018-19. He was named Everton Supporters' Club Player of the Season as well as the club's official Player of the Year for that season and was also awarded joint
Player's Player of the Year alongside Idrissa Gueye.
Digne was unable to scale the same heights in his second season, though, with the Everton team as a whole struggling as Silva's tenure spiralled out of control, ending with the Portuguese's sacking in December 2019. The defender succumbed to injury around the same time and was deputised by the soon-to-retire Baines but he returned once Carlo Ancelotti had assumed the helm ready to rebuild the Blues' prospects under new management.
Digne's presence was a major factor in the superb start Everton made to the 2020-21 season, connecting regularly with James Rodriguez's brilliant cross-field balls for him to provide ammunition for
Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, although he blotted his copybook somewhat when he was sent off at Southampton
as the wheels came off the Blues' flying start to a season played to empty stadia due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Frenchman was getting back into the groove when he suffered a
huge blow, sustaining ligament damage to his ankle that would require
surgery and put him out of the side for at least three months. He would later explain that, in addition to torn ligaments, his ankle
was broken in a bad tackle he suffered in training at Finch Farm. In a video
posted to social media, the Frenchman described the incident and his
recovery as he closed in on a return to action in the early weeks of
However, he made a remarkably quick recovery and he was back in action in
January having missed only eight games and he played in all the
rest of the games that season, earning him a new Everton deal with a
2-year extension running through June 2023, and a place on the French squad for
the delayed Euro 2020.
He played against Hungary but his second appearance lasted all of 5 minutes
after the full-back was forced off against Portugal with a, fresh injury, this time to his quadracep
Ancelotti abruptly upped sticks for Real Madrid during the 2021 close season leading to another change of manager for Digne at
Everton as Rafael Benitez took the helm, a development that would signal the end of the player's time at Goodison Park. The Spaniard's tactics dictated a change to Digne's role in the team, one that limited his attacking output in a team that would struggle badly in 2021-22 despite another positive start to the campaign. With Digne also taken off corner and free-kick duty in favour of new signing Andros Townsend, matters reportedly
came to a head after a humiliation for the Toffees in the Merseyside derby with Everton on a
dreadful eight-game winless run that had dropped them from 5th to 16th in the
Premier League table.
A training-ground row between the player and his manager saw Digne dropped from the side for the remainder of December with Benitez initially coy over the situation before eventually asserting in early January that Digne
wanted to leave.
months left on his contract, Digne was one of
the few potentially profitable assets that Everton could cash in on if
they could find a suitable buyer in the January 2021 transfer window. Athough there was rumoured interest from a number of clubs on
the Continent and in the Premier League for his services, a deal was eventually struck with Aston Villa. He parted
ways with a long and heartfelt
message on social media where he spoke of a "destroyed love affair" that left no doubt where he believed the
blame lay for his departure.
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* Everton deducted 10 points for PSR breachView full table