Everton officially unveiled Amadou Onana as the club's latest and biggest signing of the 2022 summer transfer window a week before the midfielder's 21st birthday as he completed a move from LOSC Lille that has the potential to be worth a little over £36m if all appearance-related add-ons are triggered.
The 20-year-old put pen to paper on a five-year contract in time to take a seat in the stands during the Blues' opening day loss to Chelsea in early August and was announced by the club two days later once all the paperwork had been finalised.
Though the Toffees had had a strong interest in Onana over the summer, he seemed destined for West Ham just a few days prior after the Hammers agreed a €33m fee for the newly-minted Belgian international. However, Everton stepped in with a similar offer and, according to reports and sources close to the discussions, better personal terms than David Moyes was prepared to offer for a player who only made 11 senior starts in Ligue 1 for Lille the previous season (although he did play eight times in the Champions League).
Everton were able to sort out a deal with Lille that is said to have involved a down payment of less than £10m, allowing the club to sign a player whose total value looked beyond their scope this summer due to the Premier League's profitability and sustainability rules.
Blues boss Frank Lampard and Director of Football Kevin Thelwell had identified Onana as fitting a very specific profile of player and the club were prepared to back that judgement by meeting the Dakar-born man's terms.
It has the makings of a savvy signing for a player who is naturally both-footed and whose relative youth but significant room for growth should, at the very least, preserve his transfer value.
Though billed as a holding midfielder, Onana describes himself more as a “box-to-box” man and his youth and rangy frame would certainly lend itself to that kind of role in the Premier League.
Sources who know Onana well spoke in glowing terms of the young Belgian international to Sky Sports correspondent, Alan Myers, with one declaring him, “potentially the best young midfielder in European Football at this point; an old-fashion leader” and that he possesses a personality that is “very rare to find”.
Onana himself seemed genuinly happy to be at Everton in what is his biggest move so far, having started his career at Hamburg after joining them from Hoffenheim's youth setup before signing for Lille in 2021.
“I think I can play every position in centre midfield, whether that’s as a holding midfielder or a box-to-box as a No 8," Onana told evertonfc.com. "That said, wherever the manager needs me, I will play there. I chose the No 8 shirt because I am a big fan of Kobe Bryant. His work ethic and the way he has inspired me so I’m happy to have that number at Everton.
“The Everton fans are amazing," he continued. "I saw their support last season and it’s also one of the reasons why I chose Everton. I am looking forward to meeting them at Goodison and, just hearing about the atmosphere, I get goosebumps. I’m just excited to be on the pitch and show what I can do and help the team as much as I can.”
Onana quickly became a fan favourite and regularly played the role of on-field cheerleader during his first season with the Toffees even if he didn't always scale the heights that his clear talent suggested he could. Nevertheless, he was an important part of the midfield and helped Everton preserve their Premier League safety for a second season successive season with 33 appearances.
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* Everton deducted 10 points for PSR breachView full table