In the summer of 2016, Everton spent just £7.1 million to bring in Idrissa Gana Gueye from Aston Villa. He had just been relegated as part of a woeful Aston Villa side but boasted some decent statistics. In a world obsessed with an N’Golo Kante type of midfielder, he fitted the bill.
It has proved to be an absolute bargain. Gueye has become an ever-present for Everton and is currently showcasing some of his best ever form for the Toffees.
Gueye was Steve Walsh’s first signing as Everton’s new director of football. The new appointment had been impressed with his displays at Villa and decided he could be the club’s very own Kante.
“He’s been terrific for us and, as my first signing, that’s not a bad little start…
“I always thought he had the ability but he was playing with a really poor back four. I remember thinking, ‘If I get a chance, this guy is better than he’s showing’.
“He’s a very grounded character, he gets whacked, gets up, very much like Kante. He gets around people when they have the ball. And his use of the ball is good. I look at his stats and his attributes and go, ‘Wow’.”
Walsh, of course, signed Kante for Leicester along with several other shrewd additions which eventually formed their historic league winning side.
But Walsh does not have such a famed reputation from his time at Everton. The names that spring to mind instead are the likes of Davy Klaassen, Sandro Ramirez and Ashley Williams. The fact Walsh and former boss Ronald Koeman failed to replace Romelu Lukaku or back-up an ageing injury prone Leighton Baines were also grave errors.
Walsh will certainly not have a statue erected at Goodison Park for his services. However, in Gueye, he undoubtedly struck gold.