Is this 28-year-old forward Everton's forgotten man?
There was once a time when the name of Kevin Mirallas seemed to be one of the first on Roberto Martinez’s team-sheet. That is no longer the case as the Belgium struggles to make an impression for the Toffees. This must be something that is playing on the mind on the player, as he needs to be playing on regular basis if he’s going to be a part of his countries squad for this summers European Championships.
Mirallas has been at Goodison Park since the start of 2012/13 season after joining them from Greek side Olympiacos for a fee believed to around £6 million. His first two appearances came from the bench but from then on, was an ever-present in the starting line-up for Everton, with only injury keeping him out of the team. This trend continued in the 2013/14 season as he was in The Toffees’ match-day squad in the Premier League on 35 occasions and made 28 starts and came off the bench a further four times.
Last campaign, we started to see a change in the way Mirallas was being used by Martinez. He still made 29 appearances in the Premier League but the number of his appearances as a substitute were greater than the previous two seasons combined. Even more notably, the majority of these appearances from the bench came in the latter part of Everton’s season. He started The Blues’ first game of the season against Watford this season but since then hasn’t made the starting line-up in the Premier League, emerging instead from the side-lines on seven occasions.
One of the reasons for Mirallas’ restricted role in the Everton team this season is the emergence of Gérard Deulofeu. The Spaniard is finally showing the performances you expect from a youngster that came through the Barcelona academy. Deulofeu had a loan spell at Goodison Park in 2013/14 season but struggled to a genuine impression as made 25 appearances in the Premier League but the majority of them came from the bench. Everton decided to sign the Spanish under-21 this summer for a fee believed to be around £4 million but Barcelona are rumoured to have inserted several clauses in the deal so they can take him back to the Camp Nou if they wish.
Deulofeu has made that right-wing spot his own; especially in recent games, being involved in seven goals in the last eight Premier League games for Everton; scoring one and providing six assists for his team-mates. The Spaniard’s direct style of play causes problems for opposing defenders; running at them at great speed and pulling off the odd step-over whilst also providing the final ball for team-mates, as his number of assists shows.
Another reason for the lack of chances for Mirallas this season is consistent performances of fellow front players Ross Barkley, Arouna Kone and Romelu Lukaku. Mirallas has shown his ability to play from either wing, as the main striker or as a second striker but due to the performances of those mentioned in these positions, it looks like Mirallas will continue to be a bit-part player for Everton.
Mirallas is an established international player; having won 51 caps for Belgium to date, but if he wants to add to that tally at this summer’s European Championship, the 29-year-old may have to think about leaving Everton. This does not necessarily have to be a permanent move away from Goodison Park, as even a loan would suit, so that he can get games under his belt before returning to Everton in the summer.
Whether Everton decide to let him go is another question entirely. Under Roberto Martinez’s leadership, the club have demonstrated with Chelsea’s unsuccessful pursuit of John Stones that they are no longer a club that needs to sell. Mirallas seems to be a player who is still admired by their Spanish manager and you never know what can happen in football. He may get a chance at Everton for any number of reasons and convince Martinez he should be a regular starter again.
Should Mirallas decide that his future lies away from Goodison, I’m sure there will be no shortage of takers for the experienced international. Premier League rivals West Ham United are rumoured to be interested in the player who would add to their attacking options that have been hit by injury recently. The Hammers aren’t the only team reported to be interested in a deal for Mirallas though, with Monaco and Marseille both apparently keen on acquiring the attacking talents that Mirallas can offer. Should Everton wish to keep him at the club to assist in their quest for European qualification, he needs to be persuaded that minutes on the pitch will come his way as he head towards 2016.
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