While André Gomes has long been regarded as the "must-buy" of the summer, there is a strong case for saying that it is Everton's other loan star who is more important to the Blues’ immediate future
For all the overall success of Everton's transfer business in the summer of 2018, it was the signing that almost didn't happen that arguably had the greatest bearing on what was a frustrating but ultimately promising season. Indeed, it's a bit unsettling to ponder how the campaign might have gone had the club not got the paperwork through at almost literally the last minute to sign Kurt Zouma on loan from Chelsea last August.
Yerry Mina was seen as the plumb defensive acquisition on transfer deadline day that month, the protracted negotiations and media-fuelled misdirections finally resulting in the Colombian transferring from Barcelona in a £27m deal. But it would be weeks before Mina was able to make his debut following successive foot injuries that pushed his first appearance into November. With Phil Jagielka picking up a suspension after the opening day draw at Wolves and Mason Holgate struggling to convince new manager Marco Silva he was strong enough to be a regular starter, Zouma stepped into the breach and never looked back.
The Frenchman was a fairly well-known quantity to Evertonians prior to his arrival. A full France international, he had been signed by Chelsea as one for their future and even impressed in their first team when given the opportunity but had been unable to displace the likes of Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Antonio Rüdiger at Stamford Bridge.
He was sent out on loan for the season to Stoke City and while he was lauded for his performances, he certainly wasn't able to really shine in a team that was eventually relegated to the Championship having conceded 68 goals in the process.
Regarded, perhaps, as a solid back-up at Goodison Park, few at Everton would have predicted that Zouma would finish 2018-19 as an indispensable member of the first team and, were he not a loan player, would surely have been a front-runner alongside his compatriot and eventual winner Lucas Digne for Everton's Player of the Season award.
His partnership alongside a rejuvenated Michael Keane was by season's end, one of the best in the top flight and played a huge role in the team keeping eight clean sheets in their final 11 games, including a 10-game sequence where they didn't concede a single first-half goal between early February and early May.
Providing speed at the back that Keane lacks along with excellent reading of the game, vital aerial ability and strength in general, Zouma was a picture of consistency for the Blues over the course of the season and now that it has come to an end, the prevailing question is how do Everton keep him?
Under normal circumstances, the chances of the club negotiating a deal with Chelsea would be fairly good. In Rüdiger and Luiz, the London club have a first-choice central defensive duo that is supplemented by Andreas Christensen, although the Dane is yet to convince that he can match the other two's level. Under Roman Abramovich, Chelsea have had a habit of signing promising young players, loaning them out and then selling them on for healthy fees that they reinvest in more established, top-quality acquisitions for their first-team.
As Everton found to their benefit with Romelu Lukaku and Wolfsburg and Roma also would where Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah were concerned, Chelsea are apt to letting talented players go if they haven't been entirely convinced… only to see those players go on to move on again for big money. That pattern may change with the benefit of hindsight but with Zouma having been partially out of their sight and therefore partially out of mind, Everton would have been optimistic about doing a deal this summer if it weren't for Chelsea's transfer ban that has just gone into effect.
That censure by Uefa means that they cannot make incoming signings, at least while their appeal of the ban is pending, and with Cahill having been released and Rüdiger undergoing knee surgery recently, it would seem unlikely that Abramovich and Maurizio Sarri (if he stays at Stamford Bridge) will agree to Zouma's sale if they can't replace him. Ethan Ampadu, Fikayo Tomori and Trevoh Chalobah are all highly-regarded but it's unlikely any of them would be considered ready by the start of next season.
There is also the question of what Zouma himself wants, of course. The defender spoke over the course of this past season of his desire to return to Chelsea a better player next term and while that could also be passed off as the expected rhetoric of a player talking about his parent club, no one could blame him for wanting to go back to London ready to press his claims for a regular starting role in a team competing for the Premier League title and in the Champions League.
He made no secret of how much he enjoyed his time at Goodison and if Chelsea felt he were surplus to their requirements, he would surely jump at the chance to sign permanently for the Toffees. But he might also view the conditions created by the transfer ban as his best chance of breaking back into Chelsea's team and holding down a starting place.
Everton will be doing their best to sign their 2018-19 two loan stars, Zouma and André Gomes, on a permanent deals this summer and while Gomes, with his effortless Iberian skills and potential to fill the Arteta-shaped hole in Evertonian hearts, was long regarded as the priority acquisition, there is a strong case for saying that it is the Gallic defender instead who is more important to the Blues' immediate future.
With Phil Jagielka approaching his 37th birthday and, in all likelihood, the end of his Everton career and question marks over Mina's ability to make the Premier League grade, a centre-half will be high on Brands's shopping list this summer, if not a top priority. While there are decent prospects that an alternative to Gomes could be found in the European market, it's harder to see how the recruitment team could improve on Zouma and if the 24-year-old could be prised away from Chelsea for between £30m and £40m, you would imagine they would move heaven and earth to make it happen.
Together with Keane and Idrissa Gueye, Zouma has formed an impressive defensive unit ahead of Jordan Pickford, one that under-pinned that late-season that has carried Everton into a summer pregnant with possibility and optimism. With Gueye perhaps looking more likely to stay, finding a way of keeping Zouma would keep that in place the foundation from which Silva will look to mount an assault on the top six and beyond in 2019-20.
If only it were that simple but here's hoping…
Reader Comments (53)
Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer
1 Posted 27/05/2019 at 19:50:26
He's got the pace, strength and ability to be a top-class defender if his reading of the game, decision making and distribution can be improved.
But with Chelsea's transfer ban it is probably the toughest to complete.
Keane is still too prone to errors, over-eager to commit himself and gives the ball away too cheaply. From the little I have witnessed of Mina, he's more Keane than Zouma.
So, if not Zouma, I believe another defender is needed to improve us.
2 Posted 27/05/2019 at 20:01:05
3 Posted 27/05/2019 at 20:04:41
He was the concrete we could have built on but as the saying goes there's plenty of fish in the sea.
We just need to land the right one as MIna and Keane are only 80% of what Zouma offers.
4 Posted 27/05/2019 at 20:15:20
Like I have mentioned before, there are so many plates spinning in the air at the moment as far as Chelsea is concerned. They allegedly have taken their case to Sports Arbitration Court, there is the Abramovich situation, as is with Sarri, and last but not least the player himself.
We don't know if he wants to stay at Chelsea or what, if he has expressed a desire to leave, as with most clubs including ours, there is little or no point in keeping a player who doesn't want to be there.
I haven't given up on the most used word on TW, hope!
5 Posted 27/05/2019 at 20:25:54
6 Posted 27/05/2019 at 20:40:56
For what's it worth, I heard a few whispers that some of the centre-backs on Brands list include Stark, Elvedi and Niakhate from the Bundesliga who have all had good seasons. Also Ferro from Benfica who looks to me as good as his highly rated partner centre-back.
7 Posted 27/05/2019 at 21:05:26
Pickford (if he gets his head together)
and a centre forward
Then we're in business. Okay easier said than done. But I truly believe we are only 2 or 3 signings away from challenging the top 4 and I truly believe that.
I've got a really good feeling about this manager. And that's coming from the eternal pessimist.
8 Posted 27/05/2019 at 21:46:06
So hope eternal and in Marcel Brands; we trust him to deliver in what is going to be an interesting transfer window.
9 Posted 27/05/2019 at 22:27:55
Plus a striker, and not an utterly hopeless one like the current crop.
10 Posted 27/05/2019 at 22:41:16
But, with Hazard likely to go, the future of the rather unpopular manager in doubt, the transfer-ban, Abrahmovich's absence, nobody can really call what is in stall.
In terms of Zouma, yeah, no doubt an excellent player – I disagree with the OP when it suggests it came somewhat as a surprise; I was made up when he came.
Can we keep him? Not until July will we have any idea, but one does wonder to the future of Mina. Will he eventually come good? Or will we cut our losses and build again?
11 Posted 27/05/2019 at 00:04:25
I really hope we can keep Zouma – he has got 6 or 7 years in him for us. He has a great attitude and plays with 110% commitment. Even at £40M, Lyndon, in today's market, that would be good business, in my view.
Fran #10 – I think Mina with a full pre-season at Finch Farm will come good. It would be great to start the season with three very good centre-halves.
12 Posted 28/05/2019 at 03:11:59
Even if Chelsea allow him to leave, it would not surprise me in the slightest to see Manchester United or Spurs come in for him (especially if the oft-mooted Alderweireld-to-Utd deal happens). Arsenal are another top side who will want to strengthen their backline this summer. Let's be honest – he's good enough to improve any of those sides.
Our chances of landing him ourselves? Slim-to-none in my opinion.
13 Posted 28/05/2019 at 05:27:37
14 Posted 28/05/2019 at 05:36:49
If Zouma goes, he goes; I won't be losing any sleep. He looked as gash as anyone else when we were leaving renowned headers of the ball unmarked. Tweaking the system slightly to suit the players saw an improvement in every one of our defenders.
You can't progress in the modern game with out-and-out defenders. We need a footballing centre-half and after Holgate's stint at right-back, he will come back faster, stronger, wiser and more aware of others.
My money (a substantial amount of it) would be on Holgate proving a far better all-round player than Zouma by going on to having a far more successful career.
Let's hope Silva sees sense and it's with us.
16 Posted 28/05/2019 at 08:12:09
For a start, Zouma has a big physical advantage, he's 4 inches taller and naturally stronger and bulkier. Despite this, Zouma is probably as fast if not faster than Holgate.
Experience-wise, Zouma had already played 100 games at centre-back by 22 whereas Holgate has played less than half that. It's a shame West Brom used him as a right-back.
I think Silva will have a good look at Holgate this Summer but again I'd be very surprised to see him starting the season at centre-back for us, he's just not proven himself there yet and represents too big a risk. Unless he really bosses it in pre-season, which I hope he does.
More likely that he will be kept around on the bench as a useful utility player who can fill in at centre-back or right-back. Actually, if he is to be a centre-back, the best thing would be a season at a top Championship club playing there (and not right-back) for a season rather than some sporadic minutes from our bench.
17 Posted 28/05/2019 at 09:03:38
I like Holgate, but thought he played very naively as a centre-back last season, and often wonder if he's got the physical strength or even the nouse to become a good enough player in his preferred position?
Questioning his nouse might seem a little bit stupid but he constantly got himself involved in physical battles when he played for Everton last season, even though he must have known that this is definitely not one of his better attributes at the minute.
Maybe he needs to talk to Rio Ferdinand on how to bulk up a bit, because there is definitely a very good player in Mason Holgate.
18 Posted 28/05/2019 at 09:34:17
Time will tell but, if we don't get Zouma, another centre-back is definitely needed. Maybe Holgate deserves a look at, the time at West Brom will have improved his confidence and he is a good footballer.
19 Posted 28/05/2019 at 09:54:43
I don't see anyone at the club being a ready-made replacement for Zouma; I think Holgate is a good footballer but he isn't strong enough or big enough to play centre-back. That's why West Brom used him as a full-back rather than a centre-back. We didn't see a lot of Mina through injury last season but I have to say what I did see didn't impress me.
I really hate the loan system because, if a player does well, either his price goes up or the other club decide to keep him or other clubs offering bigger money come and take him. My one plea to Brands and Silva is no more loan players, because you can't build a side that way.
I think the only player a top 6 club have on loan is Higuain at Chelsea, because top clubs won't usually run the risk of losing these players if they prove successful, as Zouma and Gomes have proved.
20 Posted 28/05/2019 at 10:16:04
Holgate fits the bill in this regard. But he lacks what for me are the most important skills for a centre-back, namely ball winning and heading ability. I can't see him being returned to the squad.
Another loan is far more likely or, if he doesn't have much time left on his contract, a sale.
21 Posted 28/05/2019 at 12:07:53
22 Posted 28/05/2019 at 12:14:43
23 Posted 28/05/2019 at 12:18:24
What happened? Darren reckons Silva tweaked the zonal system, but I'm not that sure myself, so I couldn't disagree with him, but I also think Pickford has been a different keeper since he quite rightly got destroyed off everyone after the Newcastle game, and this game was the biggest turning point of the season imo.
24 Posted 28/05/2019 at 12:32:07
As has previously been stated, Man Utd, Arsenal & Spurs will all be looking for new centre-backs next season, never mind teams abroad who will have noticed his performances for us. I want him to sign but will Chelsea sell and does he want to come back? Let's hope so. We are weaker without him right now.
25 Posted 28/05/2019 at 12:51:42
We have nothing like Gomes in our squad, he seems to have the lot: size, strength, skill and, most of all, a football brain.
Zouma is a solid defender, there is no doubting that, his speed adds another dimension to our defence. That said, we have Keane and we paid a fortune for Mina. I'd like to believe Silva and Brands got that signing right.
Also, Holgate is back, he's already proven he's a Premier League defender, he has a lot of ability and needs a clear pathway to the first team.
Then there is the U23 captain, Morgan Feeney, again there has to be a pathway for this lad. Too much playing U23 football can hinder a footballer's career, look at players like Pennington and Browning, in comparison to lads like Duffy and Mustafi who chose to seek out first-team football.
Back to Gomes, he is a must. I just hope we don't find out the hard way how big a loss he will be if he's not signed up asap.
26 Posted 28/05/2019 at 13:28:24
I happen to agree that the most important signing we could make this summer is Zouma. IMO defences win tournament and attacks win games. Kurt has steadied the defence. You made the point that he reads the game. Spot on! When it comes to the position Chelsea is in, I do have to ask the question as to why it is that, when Everton wants to do something positive, there is always some stupid EPL decision that gets in the way? This has happened too often.
Okay, we have Yerri Mina. He has looked okay but injury prone.
I'm not sure where we go if the Kurt Zouma transfer is not allowed!
27 Posted 28/05/2019 at 15:39:24
28 Posted 28/05/2019 at 15:46:21
Zouma is and always will be a better defender than Holgate.
I would make Zouma captain if we can keep him.
29 Posted 28/05/2019 at 15:52:18
Keane and Mina are too similar and I think long- term there's probably only room for one of them. So, for the balance of the side, we do need to find a centre-back with mobility and pace.
Pairing Mina & Keane would I think set both players back. Mina to date looks unpredictable, and rash; however, has had some good games, namely, against better opponents. I do look at him and think, mentally, he's a bit short when it comes to playing poorer sides.
Keane plays well in a system and needs certainty, not an off-the-cuff player or doesn't do well when his partner changes regularly, too rigid for me but very solid nonetheless.
So to the point: for the overall shape and stability that the team found in the dog days of the season, a centre-back of the same ilk – if not Zouma – is more important than Gomes.
30 Posted 28/05/2019 at 17:06:58
Last season he got 0.2 key passes per match. That is half the amount of Schneiderlin and Gueye. Also less than Tom Davies.
Tackles and interceptions wise he also made significantly less than Gueye, Schneiderlin and Davies whilst giving away more fouls.
The only area he outstrips them is in dribbling/ball carrying. Though perhaps as a result he is dispossessed a lot more.
The more I look at his stats the more I think Gomes is not nearly as good as he (occasionally) looks. Our performance during his suspension attests to this.
If we can get him for £18-£23m then perhaps its worth it for continuity but otherwise I think there are other better, cheaper options out there such as Sangare, Zakaria, Samassekou etc
31 Posted 28/05/2019 at 17:28:54
I note Sam's comments above but don't pay too much attention to stats and my view is Gomes is class. He effortlessly controls games at times and I only see him getting better and better. I would be gutted to lose him. I hope we get both but consider it unlikely that we get either.
32 Posted 28/05/2019 at 17:53:25
Zouma is a must buy (if possible) and Gomes I am on the fence about.
Gomes in these days of high press gets caught on the ball a lot and has very little goal threat.
His main attribute is his passing ability but I think we can do much better with time to shop around and also he hasn't (as far as we now) stated his desire to be at Everton next season, whereas I would have expected him to be demanding the move if he wanted to be here.
33 Posted 28/05/2019 at 19:58:05
First season is often difficult for foreign players coming the prem, yet Gomes showed me enough to make me believe he will be a massive success here.
He plays a roll were stats don't do him justice, he isn't the holding midfielder, he isn't the attacking midfielder either, he plays more box to box, just doing a bit of everything, he reminds me of Dembele when he was at Spurs, he doesn't get great numbers, but he is a colossus in the middle of the park.
Dont get me wrong I'm not saying hes been unbelievable in any way, but I would say he has shown enough to prove he could do much more.
Also I put him over Zouma due to the fact Mina should come good or our management have made a howler, and I rate Holgate who is still very young and developing physically.
34 Posted 28/05/2019 at 20:03:23
35 Posted 28/05/2019 at 22:57:36
I know stats can be a divisive issue and lord knows they can be misleading but sometimes they can be informative and objective where our eyes and hearts mislead us.
I do like Gomes and I think he's a decent player. I just don't think he's as good as he looks and some of us give him too much credit as we have been starved for so long of a technician and ball carrier in the middle.
For example, you compare him to Dembele (one of my faves) but the Belgian had superior stats at Tottenham for key passes, tackles interceptions etc per game.
I know many will rightly believe their gut feeling on a player over statistics (and I feel that way with Bernard) but I worry that Gomes is all style and no substance. If we are to spend £30m on him, then we need to see a lot more of Gomes away at West Ham than the Gomes away at Newcastle!
36 Posted 28/05/2019 at 23:49:05
My view is that, if we saw the Gomes that played in the first few weeks of getting in the team, I would say Yes... but I am coloured by the fact the Barca fans can't wait to see the back of him after being rubbish for them and he never recovered the early form as he got more regular games with us – in fact, he robbed us of a rare victory away at Spurs by losing the ball in possession and then stupidly fouling on the edge of our box.
Don't get me wrong – I think he is better than some of our other options... but I think for £30M we could do a lot better.
37 Posted 29/05/2019 at 00:12:38
But let's not kid ourselves in imagining he was this rock of a player all season.
A lot of his performances at the start and middle of the season left me with serious reservations; he looked like he had a mistake in him, was suspect positionally and was at times very poor in set pieces.
By the end of the season, though, he had definitely improved to be our best centre-back.
38 Posted 29/05/2019 at 06:38:38
You are beginning to sound like a certain other poster who often comes on here trying to defeat intelligent informed arguments with foolish meaningless stats...
The reason Holgate hasn't played 100 games is because the current manager doesn't like his footballing style. He clearly prefers the big stopper.
Zouma may be 4 inches taller, but so is John Cleese. He may be bulkier but so is Ann Widdecombe. These are the sort of meaningless stats which drive me nuts.
Silva opted for the "lighthouse type" centre-back last season. I hope he changes his mind or his hand is forced, because, despite their height, they were systematically murdered in the air.
I prefer footballers to stoppers who don't always stop and in Holgate we have a footballer. He may not be as fast as Zouma once the big fella has gotten into his stride, but he would murder him over 10-15 metres (when it counts).
You talk about Zouma's experience, but half of last season he was very poor and the season before he was being relegated – not many top centre-halves with that on their CV!
I was pleased with his improved form in the latter stages of the season, but I feel there has been a complete over-reaction to it on here. Same with Keane. I'd have been more impressed if they played as well without Gana putting in superhuman efforts to kill opposition attacks before they got that far.
Zouma isn't 25 until October. He's still a baby by centre-half standards. He will improve still further and I would be happy to keep him, but he ain't never going to be a Bobby Moore or Colin Todd (check out their heights). It would be good to keep him, but it won't be a disaster if we don't.
39 Posted 29/05/2019 at 07:45:24
In terms of games played Im not suggesting that is clear proof of Zoumas superiority but that it suggests the Frenchman has had more opportunity to learn.
As for height and bulk I reckon John Cleese would win more headers than Danny De Vito and Widdecombe would be harder to shove off the ball than Rees-Mogg.
I agree Holgate looks a proper footballer though his passing is in need of work still. But hes not going to become a great CB unless he gets more games there, how else will he learn the positioning instincts and decision making crucial to top operators there?
Its not a disaster if Zouma does not return (and I highly doubt he will) but its a great shame as he had by the end of the season built a great partnership with Keane and was clearly (finally) understanding what it was that Silva wanted. That will likely take time for a new player to achieve and personally I thought Zoumas combination of physical presence and surprising speed offered the ideal component to our defensive setup.
40 Posted 29/05/2019 at 10:04:32
41 Posted 29/05/2019 at 21:03:51
42 Posted 29/05/2019 at 21:54:20
Darren; re Holgate, I concur with many of your thoughts about him. I'd like to see him given a lot of games next season; imo, he could play right-back and defensive midfield at times as well as centre-half, especially when used off the bench.
He could play 30+ games in our first team in different positions, especially if we loaned out Jonjoe Kenny too.
43 Posted 30/05/2019 at 12:21:36
44 Posted 31/05/2019 at 10:38:24
Widdecombe is hard to shake off and she also has a crackin' change of direction.
45 Posted 31/05/2019 at 11:19:14
Regardless of what you have read on Wiki. Zouma only played in midfield in an emergency for Chelsea or brought on to strengthen up defence. He was not selected before proper midfield players. A playmaker, he most definitely is not
Jagielka played in midfield, but nobody mistook him for Pirlo.
A fooballing center half has to be able to comfortably step out of defence and start the counter. Not just charge forward through panic.
Players like Zouma - Powerhouses who can shrug of most attackers with ease - will always have a place in the EPL.
Holgate is a natural footballer and would bring something totally different.
I think Zouma was impressive in the latter stages of the season, but my memory is seemingly better than yours. I remember him and the other two lighthouses looking distinctly average for much of it.
Before our center halves grew bollocks for the home derby, people like Danny De Vito would have been licking their lips at the prospect of facing them.
Player of the years shouts for the big fella were embarrassing. A season is over 38 games, not 15
46 Posted 31/05/2019 at 19:49:09
Any comparison with Mason Holgate is irrelevant.
Holgate and Keane were a disaster together and only the much maligned Ashley Williams formed a decent partnership with Holgate.
The fact is we will be a much poorer side without Zouma.
47 Posted 31/05/2019 at 20:27:14
In the Spurs embarrassment at Goodison, he and a few other's looked shellshocked at what was happening around them. To be honest, I didn't think he would recover after that as his confidence looked shattered.
Only as the team slowly produced better results, his own form improved dramatically.
My big concern is Yerry Mina, having spunked £27m on him, I've yet to see conclusive evidence he will shake of the 'sicknote' tag in the long term, to ever put together a 10-15 game run to become a regular member of the team.
48 Posted 31/05/2019 at 22:01:36
Think with a fully fit Mina and a hopefully improved Holgate then with Zouma and Keane (if he can keep up his improved form. still think he has a mistake in him) we will be looking ok in central defence
49 Posted 01/06/2019 at 17:51:23
That nasty arrogance needs controlling though. My only worry about him is that he may lose focus. This coming season is crucial for him. 23 in October, I think he could be a very serious central defensive talent. But he has to choose the right path, and earn the right to think well of himself.
50 Posted 03/06/2019 at 15:50:05
I think with a run of games Mina could adapt better. He is still young, learning and developing a bit, the one thing that worries me is his injuries. Is it bad luck or his physiology?
51 Posted 04/06/2019 at 08:34:18
52 Posted 06/06/2019 at 15:39:29
Zouma did a decent job but I'd hope (pray) Mina can step up given he cost us £27m and is one of our top earners. Mina's got to be starting regularly to justify his expense.
If Zouma joins on a perm that'll be great but we seriously then need to figure out what we do with Mina. A guy on £120k/week should not be warming the bench.
53 Posted 14/06/2019 at 13:59:35
It would be great to get Zouma, he was solid in the run in and consistency Would be a huge bonus as he would settle quickly.
Its also important to have a number of good centre backs to increase competition and rotate if form or injury requires so wouldnt worry how Mina would fit in, but hopefully he performs as he did against Chelsea on both occasions as a standard and Id be happy.
Another strongly linked player is David Neres. He looks exciting and would have healthy options with our wide attackers. Hopefully this isnt with the aim of pushing Richalison into centre forward as he did ok but we would really benefit from having a natural goal scorer added.
Am very hopeful!
54 Posted 21/06/2019 at 10:46:56
We're busy signing previously loaned players to keep together a team that was ultimately very disappointing, bordering on a disgrace at times last season.
Add Your Comments
In order to post a comment, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.
Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and Talking Points submissions across the site.