Niels Nkounkou loan ends as Liege finish 14th

Thursday, 14 April, 2022 43comments  |  Jump to last

Standard Liege have finished the season in the Jupiler Pro League in 14th place, a long way from the play-off places. That means no more games for them or for Everton loanee Niels Nkounkou with his season-long loan at the club now coming to an end.

The top 8 clubs continue to fight it out for European qualification and for the title in two play-offs. But Nkounkou faces an early end to his participation, with a return to Everton on the cards but likely not until pre-season training starts in July.

Nkounkou still has one more full season to go on his the 3-year contract with Everton that he agreed when joining the Blues after leaving Marseille in 2020. But his limited senior appearances did not impress Carlo Ancelotti in his first season and he was farmed out on loan under Rafa Benitez after the start of his second season last August.

He failed to make the senior squad in Liege for only 3 of their 34 league games, starting 18 of them, and playing the full 90+ minutes in 13 of them, but he was not credited with any goals or assists.

With the 21-year-old on Everton's books for another full season, the value of his loan spell will be assessed to determine if he goes back to playing for the Under-23s next season, or is good enough for the Everton first-team squad.

The other options include being sent out on loan again, or being put up for sale when the transfer window opens in the summer.

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Reader Comments (43)

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Robert Leigh
1 Posted 14/04/2022 at 08:37:46
Seems to have been a case of poor timing for Niels, I thought he showed promise whenever he played - with Digne going he may well have gotten some game time this season (and earned a starting spot, à la Gordon).

Being 21, is he able to play this season without being preregistered?

Either way, with Mykolenko starting to find his feet he might find it tough again now (as Mykolenko is only 22).

Martin Reppion
2 Posted 14/04/2022 at 09:37:53
Not having seen any of his games this season, I can only go by what we saw in his few games when he was here. If he has trained on, he will be an asset. But with young players, they develop at different speeds. Some shine bright but flatter to deceive.

It would be good if he could offer genuine competition for places on the left side. I'm not going to pre-judge. We have an expert backroom staff who know what to look for, and whom one hopes will have been keeping an eye on his performances.

Jeff Armstrong
3 Posted 14/04/2022 at 09:58:44
Why give him time off until July? Get him back to Finch Farm to let the new coaching team assess him, surely he'd be eligible for the U23 squad now his loan has ended.
Clive Rogers
4 Posted 14/04/2022 at 10:14:31
Apparently Liege weren’t picking him towards the end of their season. He was mostly on the bench. Liege finished well down the league. Looks like he is just not good enough. Suspect defensively.
Allen Rodgers
5 Posted 14/04/2022 at 10:18:03
From the few times I saw him, he had a fair turn of speed going forward. However, his defence wasn't great but that would improve with experience.
Joe McMahon
6 Posted 14/04/2022 at 10:23:14
Jeff, I agree. He needs some time with Ashley Cole at Finch Farm, he certainly knew how to be a left-back!
Gary Jones
7 Posted 14/04/2022 at 10:28:16
Jeff @ 3 is spot on; why the fuck give him 3 months off now? Get your arse to Finch Farm, lad, and give Frank a look in training ready for a decision in the summer! Simply writing him off without further chances and assessment is the height of stupidity, Clive.
Robert Tressell
8 Posted 14/04/2022 at 10:30:42
If he wasn't on our books, I don't think we'd be remotely interested in a 21-year-old left-back with 18 starts, no goals and no assists playing for a mid-table Belgian club.

He has a bit of spark and personality but doesn't look anywhere near good enough, unfortunately.

He won't improve playing 2nd or 3rd fiddle as left-back either behind Mykolenko and probably Godfrey.

Probably best to sell him on for a modest fee and reinvest in someone else of promise.

For every Calvert-Lewin and Branthwaite, there will always be a few more like Sambou, Nkounkou, Gibson etc who fall short.

Tony Everan
9 Posted 14/04/2022 at 10:32:14
14th, well done, we can only dream of it.

He's only a year younger than Mykolenko so the two of them could spur each other on next season to be better. It would be interesting to get an in-depth review of his time at Standard Liege rather than just bare statistics, ie: Are there any positives or green shoots or was he regressive?

I want to see that left foot firing some perfect crosses in next season, but not at the expense of serious defensive weakness. Has he got it in him to be better than Mykolenko, who is now looking better each game he plays?

Michael Kenrick
10 Posted 14/04/2022 at 11:14:03
"Liege weren’t picking him towards the end of their season."

Not sure where you're getting that from, Clive.

His stats are at Transfermarkt for all to see. He was not picked for only 2 of the last 10 games (plus one suspended for 5 yellow-cards)... so not picked to be in the squad for only 3 games of the entire season, if you include that.

Dennis Stevens
11 Posted 14/04/2022 at 11:16:37
I'd hope the lad will be keen to get back to Finch Farm and try to make some kind of impression on the new manager and his coaching team so as to ensure he's in their thoughts for the new season.
Michael Lynch
12 Posted 14/04/2022 at 11:45:02
I thought he looked great going forward when he was playing for us, but what do I know. I agree that we should get him back to Finch Farm asap to let our coaching team have a look at him, especially with Ashley Cole at the club.
Michael Stevenson
13 Posted 14/04/2022 at 11:53:57
It's like a new signing.
Clive Rogers
14 Posted 14/04/2022 at 12:31:56
Michael, 10, just looked on transfermarkt and he started 4 of the last 13 games.
Alan J Thompson
15 Posted 14/04/2022 at 13:00:10
You might allow him a week off, maybe two, to visit his family and/or settle back in to his digs but he should be back training for the coaching staff, especially the new "coaches' coach", to assess where he is at. Just don't see any reason to let him sit around doing nothing for a couple of months and then not be anywhere near fit enough for even preseason.
Brian Wilkinson
16 Posted 14/04/2022 at 13:06:50
Said it before and will say it again, Nkounkou in time will make it as a left sided midfielder, he has all the attributes, speed, skill and good link-up play, can take players on, and has a decent cross on him.

The odd time he and Gordon played, they linked up very well on the left.

I know Carlo saw him as a left-back so did not fit his criteria, but I see him like John Stones, who is a natural centre half, but looks so comfortable when he plays in another position, in midfield for City.

We may still have Mykolenko, and he has come on leaps and bounds, under Cole's watch, maybe Cole can coach Niels at left-back, if Frank does not see Niels as a left-sided midfielder, there is certainly a player in Niels, still young and learning.

Like others have said, forget July, get him back to Finch Farm, get some one-to-ones with Ashley Cole, and a couple of run-outs for the U23s.

Ben King
17 Posted 14/04/2022 at 13:56:33
Silly decision to not get him back training

But if he has any hunger he’ll ask to come in

Can he play for us this season? Surely he could take up a spot on the bench/be an option?

Clive Rogers
18 Posted 14/04/2022 at 14:01:50
All the indications are that he is not good enough for the Premier League.
Michael Kenrick
19 Posted 14/04/2022 at 14:30:43
There may be issues relating to player registration.

Just saying...

Rules is rules. They don't always make sense.

Mike Gaynes
20 Posted 14/04/2022 at 14:55:31
I didn't see him play, but I read newspaper accounts. Nkounkou was a starter much of the season, didn't get good reviews, lost his place to an 18-year-old, and then won it back at the end of the season. Standard Liege, usually a power in the Belgian league, was poor throughout.

Is he a fullback who can't defend? A midfielder who can't score? Or just an unfocused talent who needs coaching up? It was obvious before he left that there was talent there, but whether he can actually play is an open question that the loan did not answer. I agree with the general consensus -- don't wait, get him back to Finch Farm now for an intensive tutorial at Ashley Cole University and see what we've got.

Brian Wilkinson
21 Posted 14/04/2022 at 14:56:13
You could be right there Michael, unless anything has changed since last season, the ruling was if a player loaned out, is at a club where their season has ended, the player cannot play for his parent club, until the next transfer window opens.

Like I say that rule may have changed since last season, but going off the player only returning in July, sounds like it might still be the ruling.

Brian Wilkinson
22 Posted 14/04/2022 at 15:11:00
Looked decent to me Mike, in the games he played for Everton, he could not ask for a better coach than Cole, look how he has got Mykolenko playing.

I think he has something that can be worked on, with our coaching staff, now with the new 5-sub rule, could be worth keeping hold of, and let's not forget, we have just brought a professional in, for the academy.

As for scoring goals, his strengths are getting down the wing and supplying crosses, Ronnie Goodless only ever scored 2 goals for Everton, Dave Thomas 4, but both excellent crossers of the ball, and taking players on, on the wings.

Not that I am stupid enough to compare Niels in the same breath with the above two, but that he could be a very useful addition as either a left-back, or old fashioned left-winger.

With our sailing close to the wind on FFP, it's a no-brainer for me to try and work on the player and coach him, rather than allow him to go out on loan again.

Rob Dolby
23 Posted 14/04/2022 at 15:13:28
Clive 18 most of our players don't look ready for the Premier League!

Given our potential financial situation, it would be foolish not to try and develop this lad. For all we know, he could end up being a decent left mid.

Ed Prytherch
24 Posted 14/04/2022 at 16:08:05
Niels probably had more playing time at Standard Liege than Anthony Gordon had at Preston North End. I would not read too much into it.
Danny O’Neill
25 Posted 14/04/2022 at 16:57:19
He's 21 and has just gained good experience in a different country and culture.

We have 2 young full backs, who both I feel can also play wing back.

A shame we didn't keep Digne to provide experience, but in Ashley Cole, there are fewer modern full backs that 2 young players can learn off. Likewise young Patterson once he settles and gets a pre-season under his belt.

I'm actually content with the full backs. Now to sort out the centre backs. I've only been going on about it for 2 years or so.

Dale Self
26 Posted 14/04/2022 at 17:03:02
Obviously it depends on any offer that could be considered but, if it is for a marginal gain, I don't see a problem with leaving him in the squad and giving him a run at wingback against some cup competition or less important Premier League team. As long as Frank insists on that setup, he will need some extra legs which will at minimum require some substitutions for 15-20 minutes if the wingbacks are fully involved at the offensive end.

We have a light squad and will be in need of some young legs with occasional upside in his movement going forward. If he claims to want to come back, he could be a valuable backup if we figure out how to cover his moves forward on the left. Godfrey seems interested in that role if he can mature into a clever covering left-centre-back.

And I should add two things on general football news: Freddy Rincon was an exciting footballer and deserves a moment of thought from anyone who loves the game. And I have lost all respect for Diego Simeone, hoping he never comes to the Premier League to practice the dark arts.

Mike Gaynes
27 Posted 14/04/2022 at 17:10:17
Ed #24, good point.

Brian #22, agreed, definitely worth the minimal gamble.

Michael #19, the rules may say he can't play, but are you aware of any that would prevent him from training at Finch Farm?

Kieran Kinsella
28 Posted 14/04/2022 at 17:53:38
Mike 27,

But does he still have a locker at Finch Farm?

On the training front, I don't know the rules but the likes of Jack Wilshere have floated about getting pick up games at various training clubs while not being in the squad or eligible to play.

Eddie Dunn
29 Posted 14/04/2022 at 18:44:23
If I remember correctly he is quick and skillfull, so surely worthy of our coaching team having a good look at him.
Mike Gaynes
30 Posted 14/04/2022 at 19:12:31
Dale #26, amen on Freddy Rincon, a class act who was nicknamed 'The Colossus of the Pacific' in Colombia. Reportedly he helped keep that national team program together after the murder of Andres Escobar following the '94 World Cup.

As for Simeone, he couldn't care less whether he's respected or loathed by the world. For 11 years Atletico has been the most relentlessly motivated, overachieving club in the game. Not that he'd ever come to the Premier League, but I'd swim the Atlantic to see him manage us. We'd never be in relegation danger, that's for sure.

Bobby Mallon
31 Posted 14/04/2022 at 20:55:57
Stop talking about the Under-23s for him, Dobbin and all the other better youth players.

The Under-23s is a crap team to play these lads in. Dobbin must be bored stupid playing other teams' 16-, 17-, 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds. Especially after having first team experience and not doing badly in any of his appearances.

Get them back out on loan and let Nkounkou get a rest then back into it.

Jack Convery
32 Posted 15/04/2022 at 03:01:20
Starting eleven: 18,
Substituted in: 5,
Came off the bench: 2,
Suspended: 1,
Injured: 0
Total appearances: 25

In his last 10 league games, he played in 6. in 4 of those games he played the full game. In two games he played 17 and 11 minutes respectively, presumable as a sub. Of the four games he did not play - he was not in the squad for 2 of them and twice he was an unused sub.

His contract with Liege ends 30/06/22. EFC may well need to get permission to bring him back to Finch Farm. It would be ludicrous in the extreme if he didn't train until July. I hope to see him back at FF asap.

Kieran Kinsella
33 Posted 15/04/2022 at 03:52:09

Sad news about Rincon. On Simeone, my first view of him was negative when he made a meal of Beckhams kick although I was more annoyed with Beckham. Beyond that, as far as the “dark arts” go. Somehow these days we seem to say it’s OK to fake a foul and “earn a dive,” but on the other side of the coin we don’t tolerate an elbow, shirt pull, time wasting etc. in truth it’s all the same: cheating. Trying to push the boundaries and see what you can get away with whether it’s Maradona’s handball, Salahs diving, Terry chatting up the ref, or Athletico beating the shit out of people.To me they’re all the same and our players do it too, cynical fouling - Gomes very poorly. Gordon and Rich diving - poorly. So I don’t think we should single out Athletico because the way the way they play is boring versus say Liverpool cheating in a more aesthetically pleasing way. I’d prefer zero cheating but if it’s good for the goose …

Sam Hoare
34 Posted 15/04/2022 at 07:51:04
Doesn’t sound like his loan was a great success and someone I know who watched Liege described him in quite underwhelming terms, essentially quick but a bit confused.

However, unsuccessful loans does not mean a bad player. Lampard and Cole will be well aware of his talent and progress. If there’s a decent player there then they shall get it out.

If the worst happens and we fall to the Championship then squad players on very low wages like Nkounkou will become more important.

Lewis Barclay
35 Posted 15/04/2022 at 08:36:54
I remember Nkounkou and Gordon being given a run out by one of our many managers in some games a few years ago and thinking that they both looked really talented.

If Niels can play, it would be foolish to not have him back at (previously sponsored but now lacking sponsorship) Finch Farm, initially for the simple reason: Mykolenko could get injured in our next game.

Kevin Dyer
36 Posted 15/04/2022 at 16:03:44
He has the raw attributes, but not getting selected by Ancelotti + Benitez suggests he was considered a liability defensively. The experience in Belgium is really his first run of games in professional football. He can improve from this, or from strong coaching, which we appear to have now at the club.

Whether he develops depends on his ability to learn. Getting him to Finch Farm immediately would be beneficial; no reason why he cannot train with the first team that I am aware of. Lampard can make a decision on him before the start of next season, but just what I saw in his fleeting appearances with us, he has potential.

Ed #24 agreed, Gordon semi-flopped at Preston and I for one had no expectation that he was anywhere near good enough for EFC this season. In fact, if it wasn't for our financial problems last summer I don't believe Benitez would have retained him. All players are different but I hope the staff give Nkounkou a fair shake at Finch Farm before binning him off.

Bobby #31 is correct in that the U23s would add nothing to players that are good enough to play senior football, such as Nkounkou + those from our academy such as Dobbin that are training regularly with the first team.

Frank Mullin
37 Posted 15/04/2022 at 21:15:46
Very easy to write off young players who, for whatever reasons, are not given an adequate chance or indeed be allowed the time to develop due to the unrelenting demand for immediate success.

Some may recall the example of an 18-year-old who, when he joined Tottenham Hotspur as a left-back, was, in his early days there, probably the worst player in that position in the Premier League.

He didn't do too badly after he was played further forward. His name? Gareth Bale. Who's to say young Niels won't turn out in the same way a couple of years down the line?

We can but dream, but we'll never know unless he's given a chance.

Mat McConville
38 Posted 16/04/2022 at 09:26:28
From what I saw of him, he had all the hallmarks of a top quality modern fullback. It made me wonder why he was sent out to farm in the first place.

I hope Lampard has a good look. He is quick, direct, happy to beat a man wide and take the ball to the touchline. I hear the chat about defensive vulnerability, but in Lampard's 3 at the back and him as a wingback, he is defensively protected and the focus is on what he does moving forward.

Kevin Dyer
39 Posted 16/04/2022 at 09:50:16
Mat #38 not sure many fans want to see Lampard playing a back 3 anytime soon!
Tom Bowers
40 Posted 17/04/2022 at 12:30:39
Nothing is written in stone and this lad may indeed make a mark for himself. After Seamus was loaned out, look how good he became when returning.

However, with the signing of Patterson and Mykolenko, he has a lot of competition to go along with Coleman and Godfrey.

From a wage standpoint, he could be let go or sent on loan again which is a pity as he did show good promise.

Derek Knox
41 Posted 18/04/2022 at 14:16:33
Tom @ 40, " However, with the signing of Patterson and Mykolenko, he has a lot of competition to go along with Coleman and Godfrey."

Surely that's a good thing to keep all players on their toes knowing that they have competition for their places, none of this 'shoe in if/when fit' approach. Besides, Seamus won't be sadly to maintain fitness/availability for much longer, and he has lost a bit of pace already.

There are still questions however over Niels' defensive qualities, if they exist, of the few appearances he did make for us, he was brilliant going forward, but looked suspect when forced to defend.

Howard Sykes
42 Posted 18/04/2022 at 19:58:36
If the "rules" say that he can't play for the club that owns him, what the hell were the club doing when they agreed the loan deal?

But get him back into Finch Farm and training for the three months, not sitting back doing nothing – that would be lunacy. There's talent there, 2 to 3 months for Ashley Cole to teach him what is needed, and who knows?

Justin Doone
43 Posted 24/04/2022 at 21:29:33
I don't understand the rules but I guess if he hasn't been included in the 25 man squad that needed to be registered by a deadline then our player or not, he's unavailable for the rest of this season.

A shame because he's a talented lad but I agree, like most modern attacking full backs defending is a weakness. However, if he's willing to learn and work hard, then he could be a real asset.

That last sentence could be said about all of our average, inconsistent players.

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