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Idrissa Gueye: Paris Saint-Germain new boy had outgrown Everton

12:38 PM WAT 02/08/2019
PSG new signing Idrissa Gueye
At 29, and with the Toffees unlikely to break into the Premier League’s top six, the time was right for the Senegal midfielder to depart Merseyside

At the completion of catchy transfers, the cliched ‘dream move’ tag is often thrown around, especially when it signifies the player taking a leap of advancement or progression in his career.

While Idrissa Gueye’s move from Everton to Paris Saint-Germain represents a significant jump financially for the player, as well as an immediate change in club ambition and expectation, perhaps a more appropriate phrase ought to be ‘better late than never’, owing to the circumstances surrounding the transfer.

Around six months ago, Thomas Tuchel’s side attempted to sign the ball-winning midfielder on deadline day, but their approach was rejected by the Toffees. For the 29-year-old, that must have been a real kick in the teeth. Having made a name for himself in the last few years as one of the Premier League’s top tacklers, his chance to compete with the best had seemingly arrived, only for the Blues to turn down the Parisians.

The disappointment of not swapping Merseyside for Paris couldn’t be hidden either, with Gueye openly expressing his disillusionment at the failed move.

“It is a dream that sadly did not come true, but I was honoured that PSG were interested in me,” the midfielder said in February. “I am going to work even more so that they come back to me. Maybe it is not finished with PSG.”

A move to the City of Lights has finally materialized, much to the player’s elation. While it’s hard to tell if there was an agreement in place between both clubs for a summer transfer, the French giants could so easily have switched attention to other targets.

The defensive midfielder is nearing 30, and this will likely be his final big move, so it probably wasn’t a tough decision to make.

All this isn’t supposed to be disrespectful to Everton, who are one of the strongest and most historic sides in the English game. Backed by the wealth of Farhad Moshiri, their plan for a new stadium and recent purchase of Moise Kean from Juventus shows their intent to challenge the Premier League's top six.

In the last five years, the Blues have ended in the top eight three times, while they’ve recorded eight finishes just below the big sides in the last decade.

Be that as it may, with all the sides around them also strengthening, and with the competition among the league’s giants getting ever stronger, Gueye couldn’t afford to wait for the Toffees to improve their standing in the hierarchy.

Since moving to England from Lille in the summer of 2015, his ball-winning ability and energetic style has led to comparisons with Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante, who signed for Leicester City in the same summer as the Senegal international’s Aston Villa transfer.

While Kante has gone up a level with a move to Chelsea, where he has won another league title, the FA Cup and the Europa League, not to mention his World Cup success with France in 2018, Gana has suffered the ignominy of relegation with Aston Villa, the supposed plateauing of Everton, and Africa Cup of Nations heartache with Senegal.

That didn’t stop the tenacious midfielder from rivalling the more celebrated Frenchman throughout their time in the Premier League. Statistically, in his time with the Toffees, no player in the league won more tackles than Gueye (282) - at a success rate of 71.39 percent - a staggering 82 more than the Frenchman.

Furthermore, the Senegal anchor man also beats the Chelsea player for amount of interceptions completed in that time.

In all fairness, the latter’s deployment in an advanced role, owing to the West London club’s brief change of philosophy under Maurizio Sarri, plays a role in such a wide gap between both players statistically, but it also puts the influence of PSG’s new signing in perspective.

He ought to provide a semblance of balance to Tuchel’s team, teeming with attacking talent. The German head coach was often shorn of options in midfield last term as a result of Marco Verratti’s injury problems and Adrien Rabiot's disciplinary issues.

With the addition of Ander Herrera from Manchester United and winter signing Leandro Paredes getting even more accustomed to their way of operating, the Red and Blues will look to dominate at home while seeking the Holy Grail on the continent.

Gueye may have abandoned the Everton project early, but when PSG came calling again, there was no way he was going to say no to the opportunity of playing for the French giants.

Having somewhat been in Kante’s shadow for the last few years, it’s time he got the recognition he deserves at the pinnacle of European football.