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FEATURE | Lucas Digne’s move to Everton appears as a logical next step in his career, even if more opportunities would’ve arisen later in the window

“The last two years have been a childhood dream that I have been able to realise,” Lucas Digne wrote on his Instagram account, upon confirmation that he was leaving Barcelona. “I want to say thank you very much to all.”

The left-back has an impressive CV. Having started his career at Ligue 1 side Lille, big-spending Paris Saint-Germain were minded to part with €15m to gain his services in 2013. Two summers later he joined Roma on a season-long loan deal, and so impressive where his performances that Barcelona beat the Serie A club to his permanent signature in 2016 for a reported €16.5m.

Digne’s career has already spanned four top level clubs and he has racked up 40 appearances or more for each, alongside earning 21 caps for his national team among fierce competition. It is easy to forget that he only celebrated his 25th birthday earlier this month. The Paris-native has always been destined for a bright career – he represented his nation at every youth level and played for France at the 2014 World Cup, aged just 20.

However, it is now indisputable that he needs a sustained run of regular first-team football. Last season he was selected to start in just eight La Liga matches as he played second fiddle to first-choice Barca left-back Jordi Alba. In hindsight, the Frenchman’s move to the Camp Nou in 2016 may have been an error in judgement. He was rarely likely to trump Alba – a regular for club and country – in the position and such stagnation at this stage of his career was far from ideal.

Indeed, he has only started more than 15 league games in a single campaign once in the past five seasons – his loan stint at Roma. The Italian giants wished to sign him on a permanent basis yet the move to Catalonia was driven by finances – both in terms of wages and a transfer fee – alongside the promise of stardom. Even if first-team football was not guaranteed straight away, the chance to join Barcelona is one that may only come around once in a lifetime.

Digne has made 47 first-team appearances across two seasons at the Camp Nou – a figure which can hardly be described as paltry, but one which surely must increase if he is to realise his potential. It is with this in mind that his move to Everton appears to be driven. The Toffees are a club who are stable in England’s top flight, can offer a solid wage and the guarantee of first-team football. Previous reports had linked the left-back to both Juventus and Bayern Munich, but each of those moves would surely have presented the same problems as before.

The European transfer window still has a month left to run and it is possible that other suitors may have emerged for the defender, whose €20m valuation seems reasonable in an inflated, bloated market. Yet the move to Goodison Park appears to be a logical one in the context of his career, offering him a global platform to excel in an environment which does not share the same volume of scrutiny as the Catalan capital.

There are little doubts over Digne’s character in or away from football. He has never complained regarding a lack of playing time and has always been an exemplary professional, but he will remembered fondly in Barcelona for his actions in the wake of last summer’s terror attack in the city.

The Frenchman was enjoying a day off in his home in Plaça Catalunya, beside where the deadly attacks took place on Las Ramblas. Reports say he rushed from his with towels and bottles of water in an attempt to help the victims and remained with them until medical authorities arrived. It demonstrated Digne’s humanity and ensures he will always be remembered in this light within the city.

But now it is time for the 25-year-old to focus on his career on the pitch and this appears to represent an excellent deal for the Toffees. Yet football transfers are never a sure thing, the club’s signings of Sandro Ramirez and Davy Klaasen last summer proved disastrous despite high hopes. Digne will hope to avoid such pitfalls, but his attitude and playing promise bode well for Evertonians.

C.M.

 

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