There were smiles all round as Lucas Digne completed his transfer from Barcelona to Everton. The directors at the Camp Nou were happy. Their counterparts at Goodison Park were happy. And, most importantly, the player was happy too. This was a transfer that scratched itches for of all involved.
For Digne, it was time for a change. Following his 2016 transfer from Paris Saint-Germain to Barcelona, he had made just 46 appearances in two years, averaging just 69 per minutes per outing. Of course, this was entirely logical given that he was competing for left-back minutes with Jordi Alba, one of the very best in the world at that position. But, whatever the reasons for his near-permanent spot on the bench, it was time for the Frenchman to become a starter again.
Being a backup at Barça had seen Digne miss out on the World Cup, an especially tough blow given that he had been at Euro 2016, given that France went on to win the whole thing and given that left-back was one of Les Bleus’ weakest positions. In the end, Didier Deschamps even decided to play a centre-back in that spot, in Lucas Hernandez, deciding the Atlético Madrid man was more up to speed. “Since the last France squad, Digne has only played 90 minutes with Barcelona on two occasions,” Deschamps said in May as he explained his World Cup list. “And one of those occasions was at centre-back. It’s a matter of rhythm.”
Now 25, it’s time for Digne to kick on in his career. Since he moved from Lille to Paris Saint-Germain in 2013, Digne has only made more than 20 league appearances in a season on one occasion, in 2015/16 when he was on loan at Roma. He is a very good left-back; nobody who has worked with him would dispute that. It’s simply time for him to be at a club where he gives himself a chance of winning the starting job. At Everton, he’ll have that opportunity. Leighton Baines, of course, is a top left-back as well, but with the Englishman coming up for his 34th birthday Digne will expect to pass that 20 appearances mark in the Premier League this season.
The battle for minutes is good news for Everton boss Marco Silva. The Portuguese coach goes into his first season with The Toffees safe in the knowledge that he has two great left-backs to choose from. The competition between Digne and Baines should make each player better, while whoever becomes the regular starter will be well covered should they pick up an injury or a suspension. It’s certainly a better situation for the club than when Cuco Martina had to play at left-back last winter when Baines was on the sidelines with injury.
For Barcelona, this is a good piece of business too. Coach Ernesto Valverde likes to work with a small squad and there was, therefore, a need for a summer clear-out of fringe players. Digne was one of the logical sale options and the Catalan club will be pleased that they haven’t made a loss on him. In fact, the reported €20m fee represents a profit of €3.5m.
As for backing up Jordi Alba, Barcelona are confident that they have an off-the-shelf replacement in their academy. They may yet purchase a more experienced left-back, but the early signs are that they’ll give the job to either 20-year-old Marc Cucurella or 18-year-old Juan Miranda, with the latter actually the more likely to be selected. Miranda was part of Barcelona’s UEFA Youth League-winning squad and is set to alternate between the B team and the first team in 2018/19, coming into Valverde’s squad whenever a replacement for Jordi Alba is needed. The fact that Miranda has a release clause of €200m euros shows just how highly he is rated by the Blaugrana hierarchy.
This, then, seems to have been the perfect transfer. It ticks all of the boxes for all of the parties involved.
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Also published on Medium.