One of the key African transfer stories to watch between now and the close of the January transfer window is Idrissa Gueye’s potential move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Ahead of Everton’s Premier League victory at Huddersfield Town on Tuesday, Marco Silva confirmed that the club had rejected a reported £21.5 million bid from PSG for the Senegal international’s services.
"My opinion is the same as the club's, and we rejected the offer," Silva said, as per BBC Sport.
"He is one player we do not think to lose in this market. Of course, after some moments it can become a matter of money.
"From my point of view he is a really important player for us."
As things stand, Gueye appears set to remain at Everton, although there’s still time for moneybags PSG to increase their offer and put more pressure on the Merseysiders before the window slams shut.
Even if Paris don’t move for the West African, Everton may be primed to field other offers.
According to Sky Sports, Arsenal and Manchester City are also looking at the 29-year-old, and the latter’s defeat by Newcastle United on Tuesday may put pressure on Pep Guardiola to invest in his squad.
Gueye would be eligible for the latter stages of the Champions League, and he’d solve a potential weakness in the City squad—the absence of an alternative midfield general to Fernandinho.
There’s reportedly increasing pressure from the player for Silva to allow him to talk to clubs.
According to Sky Sports, the midfielder wrote to the club asking them that he be allowed to join PSG, although the club later denied those reports.
Despite signing a contract that keeps him at Goodison Park until 2022, Gueye can perhaps be forgiven for eyeing a move to the French capital.
At 29, he could finally the kind of elite level of competition and win the silverware that has long eluded him during his career.
He may have won the French title as a youngster at LOSC Lille, but a move to Aston Villa in 2015 only brought relegation, while he’s been a constant presence at Everton during a tricky few seasons for the club.
The midfielder ultimately missed the Huddersfield game, and while a slight groin problem was the official reason for his absence, the ongoing transfer speculation may well have forced Silva’s hand.
If one of his potential suitors can make an offer that matches Farhad Moshiri’s valuation of the player, then Gueye might have played his last game for the club.
Certainly, a player who will turn 30 later this year, and who is keen on an exit, will have his price, and Everton are sure to make a killing on the midfielder, who they paid only £7.1 million for back in 2016.
However, while Moshiri may well relish the profit, Gueye’s exit would deny Everton a key component of their starting XI and could risk undoing much of the remodelling that’s been done during the British-Iranian billionaire’s tenure as the club’s owner.
Much of the West African’s work in front of the defence may go unnoticed, or Toffees fans may grumble at his lack of ambition in possession, but he adds balance, ballast and bite to the Merseysiders.
Certainly, as Everton were eviscerated 6-2 by Tottenham Hotspur at home in December—as Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks ran rings around the hosts’ midfield—Silva’s side were crying out for a hard-working destroyer in the mould of Gueye.
Without him, the likes of Andre Gomes, Tom Davies and Morgan Schneiderlin do not offer the required guile or grit, and Everton are both weaker in and out of possession when Gueye isn’t marshalling the heart of the park.
N’Golo Kante has rightly been lauded for his tireless, selfless midfield work for both Leicester City and Chelsea since arriving in the Prem, but Gueye’s industry matches the France international beat for beat.
In 2016, no player averaged more tackles or interceptions per match in any of Europe’s five major leagues than Gueye, while he’s averaged more tackles per match than Kante in each of the last three campaigns.
This term, despite Everton’s toil, no one in the division has averaged more tackles per game than Gueye (4.2), while only five players have averaged more interceptions per match.
Time is not on Everton’s side if they’re looking to replace the West African before the end of the window, and even if they could, would either of his mooted replacements—Abdoulaye Doucoure or Mario Lemina, for example—come close to replicating Gueye’s defensive output?
The money PSG could offer, for a player who’s approaching 30, may tempt Everton’s hand, but they’d struggle to replace a player who remains arguably the key component in Moshiri’s Toffees rebuild.