Mohamed-Ali Cho: The dazzling teenager let go by Everton who is starring in France

Tuesday, 7 September, 2021 32comments  |  Jump to last
In The Athletic, Patrick Boyland brings us the story of another Everton Academy player who did not see the club providing him with a fast enough pathway to first-team football.

Mohamed-Ali Cho was spotted by Everton aged 8, playing for PSG in a youth tournament in Marseille. Although they could not sign him straight away, he made a big impression, eventually signing before compensation was due.

“He was their best player,” says a source with knowledge of the situation. “Everton won but he did really well. He had superb dribbling ability and a great shot… like a rocket.

Born in Paris, Cho was a standout in Everton's academy. Part of a strong 2004-born group also containing Thierry Small, he was promoted to play two age-groups up due to his potential.

Cho came to the conclusion that leaving was his best chance of making the grade. Several rounds of discussions were held with Everton but no agreement could be found. A parting of the ways was not mutual but finally, it was decided he could speak to other clubs.

After joining Angers as an academy scholar in January 2020, he signed his first professional deal with the club last May, becoming the youngest ever to do so in France. A first-team debut followed in August against Bordeaux.

» Read the full article at The Athletic


Reader Comments (32)

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Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
1 Posted 07/09/2021 at 23:56:43
Can we please:

a. Leave the negative comments for at least another 5-6 years. If by that time (aged 22) he is a regular starter for France and is a more sought-after property than Erling Haarland, then we can moan – but he could be another Jon Obi Mikel.

b. Tell us what we should do to fast track him and Thierry Small into our first-team squad and meet their expectations.

James Flynn
2 Posted 08/09/2021 at 04:11:53
Why post a link to a site requiring a log-in to read the article?

Alan J Thompson
3 Posted 08/09/2021 at 04:22:41
Perhaps we might be better signing the people who first noticed him and those who coached him before his arrival at Everton but again, are we really scouting 8-year-olds?
James Flynn
4 Posted 08/09/2021 at 04:29:32
Well, Angers didn't mislead him. He's started all 4 of their games so far. Even scored a goal.

Alan McGuffog
5 Posted 08/09/2021 at 06:26:02
I blame our coaching staff. They should all be sent on an Angers management course.
Duncan McDine
6 Posted 08/09/2021 at 06:35:16
Just let him go and forget about him…. Don't look back in Angers!
Peter Gorman
7 Posted 08/09/2021 at 07:27:27
The poor man's Lewis Dobbin.
Danny O’Neill
8 Posted 08/09/2021 at 07:54:42
The Athletic is subscription, James. Gregg O'Keefe, formerly covering Everton for the Echo and then worked for the BBC, is one of the main writers. I'd recommend it. Really good and not just for Everton news.

So, a youngster taken from his natural surroundings at the age of 10 or 11 and placed in a foreign country decides to go home, still aged 17. Smacks of nothing to see here and good luck to him.

Good luck kid. In my opinion, you've made a personal as well as a footballing decision.

Ray Roche
9 Posted 08/09/2021 at 08:42:01
It will be interesting to see how many games Small plays for Southampton this season.
Robert Tressell
10 Posted 08/09/2021 at 08:50:25
Cho was still 15 when he returned to France, I think. He was playing in Angers first team last season too – as one of only a very few 16-year-olds getting top-flight minutes in a top European league.

I don't think we did anything wrong particularly. He just went home and a fairly modest club could fast track him. Looks like a good player but a long way to go yet.

As for Small, he is unlikely to threaten Perraud for the left-back spot this season. He might get minutes playing higher up the pitch (as he might have done for us) because he's explosive around the opposition box but needs to mature as a defender.

Danny O’Neill
11 Posted 08/09/2021 at 09:01:13
It sounds like a good move for him, Robert, both personally & professionally.

The French league, although yes, one of the top 5 European leagues, does, I believe, lag behind the other 4 (England, Germany, Spain & Italy).

So he will have more chance to play and shine there, as did Moise Kean. And, he's gone home. I can understand that.

Michael Kenrick
12 Posted 08/09/2021 at 09:36:37
I think you can look at it two ways:

Firstly, there has to be some kudos due to the Academy scouts, coaches and set up that they were able to find, attract and retain at least for some years players like Cho, Small, and Rose. Doesn’t that show the Academy are doing a good job?

But secondly, the fact that the same Academy system has proved to be incapable of keeping these highly promising players, and showing them an effective pathway the first team, can only mean the Academy is failing in its primary remit — at least in these cases.

And talk out there that Lewis Dobbin may be next… with Isaac Price, Luke Butterfield, Charlie Whitaker and Reece Welch also mentioned in the same bracket of highly promising youngsters.

Only time will tell…

Brian Harrison
13 Posted 08/09/2021 at 10:05:02
Clubs have always had young players leave and go on to great things with other clubs. I doubt there is any club who have let a player go and didn't regret it some years later.

But we seem to have difficulty in producing players for the first team and in being able to keep the more talented. Why that should be, I don't know, but it's something that surely needs addressing.

What I found more worrying was hearing Ellis Simms say how much he had learned from his manager at Blackpool, inferring that he wasn't getting the same level of coaching as he got with us. Now, considering he is still an Everton player and may come back here, that's a very telling statement to make.

Christine Foster
14 Posted 08/09/2021 at 10:37:25
Surely a key function of the academy set-up is the identification of those with the ability to kick on, rather than continual playing in the Under-23 team? It's all we have but it's a significant gap between that and the first team.

Even loan deals are hit and miss, mostly the latter. Losing out on possible first-team possibilities because of gaps in set-ups is not only expensive but plain daft.

Solutions have to lie within the academy, pressured performance training, training with first team – whatever it is, perhaps it needs a rethink?

Dave Williams
15 Posted 08/09/2021 at 10:45:51
Brian #13,

I took the view that Simms was bigging up Blackpool as that interview was with their local paper. I would expect him to learn more in their first-team squad, hence the whole point of him going there on loan.

He should be fit to play shortly and it will be interesting to see if he gets some playing time in our first team.

Danny O’Neill
16 Posted 08/09/2021 at 11:01:21
We've been around this table before.

Very few, even those who we can point to now, bring through significant numbers to the first team.

Manchester United maybe the only ones who do it consistently? Liverpool seemingly make a lot of money on players they don't deem good enough? Even Chelsea, who have recently been praised only really have 2 or 3 regular first teamers from their youth set up.

Brian, your point about Simms is interesting and telling. He's being coached by the former Liverpool U23s manager if I recall (I haven't checked). Someone who earned his spurs but stepped out of his comfort zone into the world of competitive football.

Unsworth should have taken that Oxford job.

Brendan McLaughlin
17 Posted 08/09/2021 at 11:05:26
Exactly, Dave #15,

Simms was simply accentuating the positives of his loan move and unfortunately, because he's a footballer and not a consummate politician, it came out in such a way that it could be inferred as a criticism of Everton. It wasn't.

Ajay Gopal
18 Posted 08/09/2021 at 11:21:06
Chelsea have let go of Salah, De Bruyne, Lukaku, Declan Rice from their club to some of their direct competitors – but they have since won the Premier League and the Champions League, so they know how to bring in new managers and players and yet keep winning.

Let us not worry about the players that we have let go (although I fall into the trap frequently – my recent favourite quibble has been letting Beni Baningime leave the club) – focus on trying to improve the players that we have and get the best out of them.

Good luck to the young fellow – if he turns out to be a world beater, maybe one day he will give an interview saying how Everton was responsible for making him the player he tuned out to be!

Barry Rathbone
19 Posted 08/09/2021 at 11:25:31
Sounds like the club tried to keep him but he wanted out.

Not much to add beyond the observation playing in France is no confirmation of anything. Even Moise Kean got a few games in France.

Brian Harrison
20 Posted 08/09/2021 at 11:31:37
Danny @16,

Yes, Neil Critchley is the Blackpool manager who previously was the U23 coach at Liverpool. He was very well thought of at Liverpool, but he wanted to see if he could make it as a manager and seems to be doing a good job. I disagree with Dave and Brendan, he didn't have to do any bigging up as Dave put it, the guy was telling it as he found the coaching.

Danny, you are correct: if Unsworth wants to progress in the game, he has to try his hand at management, like Critchley has, but I think life is far too comfortable at Everton for Unsworth to take the plunge.

I also think the same applies to Duncan Ferguson: if he ever wants to aspire to managing Everton, he needs to become a manager with all that entails and show if he is capable. Taking over as a caretaker manager is completely different to being the full-time manager.

Regarding how other clubs run their academy, then Man Utd are head and shoulders over the rest in producing their own players through the academy system, and have been since the Busby babes.

Chelsea use the academy system as a cash cow where only the very best make it to the first team but most are sold for a lot of money. Liverpool also seem to be doing it the Chelsea way in producing young players to sell on for mega bucks.

Brian Harrison
21 Posted 08/09/2021 at 11:40:50
Barry @19,

You may well be correct to say the French League isn't that great, so maybe we should be more sceptical of how the boy would fayre in a better league.

Although France has managed to win 2 World Cups in the last 15 years, were our Country with supposedly the best league hasn't won a World Cup for over 50 years.

Justin Doone
22 Posted 08/09/2021 at 11:53:09
In these situations, it's always worth the risk trying to unearth and gently polish a true gem of a player. But there's not many young teenagers who are mature enough to live abroad and truly commit themselves to a single club.

If they are too young to sign a professional contract, there's simply very little you can do to keep them unless they are playing regular football.

That's why the Red Bull and Man City club franchise models were created. Play first-team football but in a lower grade league. If successful, they move up the family clubs. If not, they stay and play at a lower level or get sold elsewhere.

I don't think it should be allowed, but it is and we need to follow suit. A franchise feeder club on each continent. But that's more money and more risk. I'm not sure Moshiri can handle any more risk at the moment.

Barry Rathbone
23 Posted 08/09/2021 at 11:58:33
Brian Harrison 21,

Which is why their league is so bad, the decent players scoot off, ply their trade elsewhere and get together only for internationals.

I have a pet theory that the best players tend to flourish in countries were expectations are low because of crap leagues, France being a prime example.

Robert Tressell
24 Posted 08/09/2021 at 11:58:36
On the points about Simms, my view is the coaching staff at various levels have done a good job with him.

He's a big unit and a terrific finisher but, when he turned up from Man City's academy, he wasn't much of a footballer. He and the academy have worked really hard together to help him with each step up – often after a slow start, he's managed to prove himself.

The loan is simply the next stage after having become too good for the U23s. Just as U23s was the next step after U18s.

If he didn't learn a lot by playing league football at a decent standard, there would be no point in the loan. It's not a slur on the academy coaching – it's the precise reason he's been sent on loan at all. The fact he's ready for the loan is down to his hard work with the academy.

Now, that's not me saying the coaching is excellent generally or couldn't be improved – it's just some perspective on the Simms situation.

The other point is about Unsworth's role in delivering first teamers. As U23 coach, he receives players at the end of a conveyor belt. As with Jeffers, Dunne, Ball, Davies, Rodwell, Barkley, Rooney etc the really exceptional ones play first-team football by about age 18 or 19 or even earlier. U23s is last chance saloon for more mediocre talents.

If the academy isn't churning out first teamers, then look to the U18s and much, much younger. I think the Ajax Academy works on the basis a kid needs to have mastered technique by age 8. After that, it's tactics and teamwork etc.

Phill Thompson
25 Posted 09/09/2021 at 09:21:05
For me that was a poor article by the Athletic, just going for an attention-grabbing headline which suggests we made a mistake and let him go. We didn't.

Cho made the decision to leave when he was 15, or rather his French family made that decision that he would be better off back in France. This also included the fact he'd played for England youth teams but in future would play for France.

I doubt there was much we could have done to retain him. On the other hand, I would love us to be seen as a club that outstanding youngsters sought to join.

Brian Harrison
26 Posted 09/09/2021 at 09:40:06
Talking of transfers, I read this morning that Barcelona will have to pay Liverpool a further £17.1 million if Courtinho plays another 10 games; so far, he has played 90 times. Now obviously because of their financial problems, there is no way Barcelona will play Courtinho but it just shows how well Liverpool conduct their transfer business to the way we do.

Let's not forget, Barcelona paid £145 million for him and Liverpool got them to agree to pay a further £17.1 million if he played 100 games. Pity we didn't insert that sort of condition to our high-value sales.

Danny O’Neill
27 Posted 09/09/2021 at 10:30:15
On Unsworth, Robert, if he's happy and comfortable where he is, then, if I was him, I'd use his elevated status to take a step back and truly overhaul and reshape the academy rather than being the U23s manager with a different title. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I do seem to remember seeing he'd been effectively promoted?

To use an analogy, when I got promoted to Warrant Officer, I didn't want to keep doing what I'd done as a Sergeant. I wanted to use my new-found status to influence and develop operations.

Brian, apart from those 2 years when they went a bit Moshiri when Dalglish was back in charge and that summer when they seemed to buy Southampton, Liverpool's transfer strategy has been more than impressive. They have shown you can progress even if you decide to cash in on your best players. Providing your scouting system has the next best thing lined up. The fact they only paid £8M for Coutinho in 2013, sold him for over £100M several years later and still stand to potentially make money off the deal speaks volumes.

And most important, they replaced him to continue progressing. They learned that scattergun doesn't work even when you do have money to throw around. Hopefully we have now done so and are resetting.

Robert Tressell
28 Posted 09/09/2021 at 21:45:13
In fairness, Danny, I think that's what Unsworth and Brands are now doing. With Unsworth as its head, the academy is now in what appears to be much better structural shape. Talented young players are being challenged to step up sooner – and the best age 19 to 20 seem to get loans to edge them closer to becoming first-team ready.

Whether this is ultimately successful could take years. I expect the scouting, recruitment and coaching will all need to improve before we get our own version of Foden, Sancho, Greenwood etc.

Brendan McLaughlin
29 Posted 09/09/2021 at 22:09:08
Good point, Robert #28.

And the fact that Brands isn't saying "Fuck off, David, and find another club" – speaks volumes.

Nicholas Ryan
30 Posted 09/09/2021 at 22:56:36
The identification of sporting talent is difficult and very hit and miss. I was involved in cricket for many years and remember being asked, how many of a certain Under11/13 squad might make it as professionals.

I replied that 3 of them had what it takes to make it. Three members of that squad did indeed go on to play professional cricket... but none of the 3 that I had predicted!

By the way, two of the best amateur batsmen I saw in those days, were Phil Neville and David Unsworth!!

James Flynn
31 Posted 09/09/2021 at 23:53:58
Danny (8) - Thanks for the response and recommendation.

I know of the Athletic and for sure O'Keefe.

It's just a rarity in ToffeeWeb to be provided a link that requires a subscription.

Robert Smith
32 Posted 15/09/2021 at 15:35:55
Spotting talent so young is very hard. There's a local kid in my youth club who is banging in goals against teams made up of academy kids. 47 goals in 22 games last year. Now playing up an age group. Can't get a look in with the local Premier League club.

Juventus have expressed an interest. Parents aren't interested in Juventus conversation, have told the kid to use the local rejection as motivation to put in more hours and keep wearing the Everton shirt under his team shirt.


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