EVERTON have signed some gems in their time, but has any new signing sparkled quite so brightly as Idrissa Gana Gueye?

The Senegal midfielder was hardly the headline-grabbing star most Toffees wanted when he signed from relegated Aston Villa for just £7m.

After what many felt was a disappointing end to the transfer window, some even questioned the judgement of Steve Walsh, brought in from Leicester to oversee the club’s strategy.

But he seems to have got at least one thing right in signing Gueye, who has since earned almost universal praise and quickly become a fan favourite.

Jamie Carragher tipped him as the signing of the summer, Paul Ince insisted he is already “a better player than N’Golo Kante”, and Ronald Koeman claimed “he will become maybe the best in the Premier League” in his position.

It’s easy to see why. Gueye has been just what the doctor ordered for the Blues, snapping into tackles, covering every blade of grass and even showing surprisingly good ability on the ball.

He’s barely put a foot wrong, something some Villa fans have found hard to believe after claims he made too many costly mistakes last season and that his tackling and interception stats overrate him.

Walsh, of course, wanted him at Leicester, and recognised he was just what Everton needed.

Roberto Martinez fashioned a side which dazzled at times. But it’s softness and it’s maddening ability to capitulate under pressure were legendary.

This weekend Everton play Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium, where all those faults were glaringly evident last season as they twice blew a lead to draw 3-3 after allowing an equaliser in the eighth minute of stoppage time.

It’s probably safe to say that is unlikely to happen again. Koeman himself is a major reason for that of course, and so is Ashley Williams. But so, emphatically, is Gueye.

He has happier memories of the place too after helping Villa to a 1-0 win there on his debut last August. Only one other player had more touches in that match.

Tom Cleverley first got a glimpse of Gueye when he helped Senegal kick lumps out of Stuart Pearce’s Great Britain team at the London Olympics. He’s likely to see a lot more of Gueye from the bench this season.

But by the time the pair faced each other back then at Old Trafford in 2012, Gueye had already made a name for himself by helping unfancied Lille win a famous league and cup double in France.

In October 2014 he played for them against the Blues in a 0-0 draw in the Europa League, and again in a 3-0 defeat at Goodison that November.

A year later he started for Villa in their 4-0 defeat there, coming off at half time, so his memories of the place before he joined were not exactly joyful. How times change.

Recognising his contribution so far, Koeman was gushing in his praise of Gueye recently, saying: “Of course he wins a lot of second balls, he wins a lot of tackles, but the boy showed his composure in midfield.

“He played the ball left, right, always tried to play the ball forward. It’s a fantastic signing for the club and I hope we keep him for a long time.”

Evertonians everywhere will surely second that. Gueye was born in Dakar, birthplace of the legendary rally, an endurance race in which competitors have to cross dunes, mud, rocks and desert, covering vast distances every day. That somehow seems very appropriate for a player who has not stopped covering every blade of grass since his arrival at Goodison.

Time will tell if Carragher ends up being proved right, but Everton certainly seem to have made one of the signings of the season so far.

About The Author

Paul Brown
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Freelance sport & travel writer, Express Newspapers & others. London football beat. Long-suffering Evertonian. Half-Finnish. Delta Blues lover. Big hoops fan