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Ademola Lookman: Everton’s Nearly Man

Ademola Lookman’s Everton career has come to an end.

A saga which has dragged on for well over a year has reached a conclusion, with a deal believed to be in the region of £22million having taken him to RB Leipzig, the Bundesliga club where Lookman enjoyed a fruitful loan spell in 2018.

Lookman, signed for a reported £10million from Charlton in January 2017, travelled with Everton’s squad to their training camp in Switzerland, though took no part in games against FC Sion or AS Monaco.

Last season, Everton turned down numerous offers from Leipzig for the 21-year-old, with Marco Silva labelling Lookman as “the present and future” of the club. In January, Silva again praised the forward, who had started to push for a place in the first team, although in March, the manager questioned Lookman’s commitment and application during training.

However, it was not to be for Lookman – whose Everton career arguably peaked in his first appearance – at Goodison Park.

And while it is easy to point our Lookman’s failure to fully apply his talent when on the pitch, there are a number of other factors as to why his time on Merseyside just simply did not work out.

A FLYING START

Just four minutes after coming on as a substitute against Manchester City, Lookman made his mark, slotting coolly through Claudio Bravo’s legs to cap off a 4-0 win over Pep Guardiola’s side at Goodison Park. It was one of his first touches in an Everton shirt.

An impressive cameo against Crystal Palace followed, with Lookman coming on to cause havoc against his local south London team at Selhurst Park as Everton ground out a 1-0 win thanks to Seamus Coleman’s late strike.

Lookman’s first start came in a memorable clash against Bournemouth, with Ronald Koeman – who had previously ostracised Gerard Deulofeu – electing to throw the new arrival in at the deep end against Bournemouth. Flashes of skill were shown, though in a nine-goal thriller, Lookman failed to truly cement himself on the game.

Nevertheless, two more starts would follow, though the second, in a miserable draw against Middlesbrough, proved to be his final appearance from the off of 2016-17, which leads onto the next point.

EPIC MISMANAGEMENT

Heading into 2017-18, Everton’s lack of pace was evident.

Lookman offered a counter to that, though was used sparingly by Koeman. He impressed, on the right, against Hadjuk Split at home, but in the return leg, was hauled off at half-time.

He was hardly seen for the rest of Koeman’s tenure, coming back in – and then back out – of the team when David Unsworth took temporary charge. He then starred as Craig Shakespeare took a second-string side to a Europa League dead-rubber in Cyprus, though Sam Allardyce did not take a risk heading into the Christmas period.

An impressive cameo against Liverpool in an ultimately fruitless FA Cup clash at Anfield looked set to put Lookman to the head of the queue for Allardyce, but it proved not to be the case.

LEIPZIG COME CALLING

With Allardyce showing no sign of handing Lookman a path to the first team, the youngster asked for a loan move to Bundesliga side Leipzig, who had declared their interest.

Allardyce – in another example of the inept mismanagement which littered his brief, torrid time at Goodison Park – wanted Lookman to join Derby County, but the winger held his ground, and got the move he wanted.

Lookman wasted no time in proving Allardyce wrong, scoring the winner on his Leipzig debut, and he went on to finish the season with five goals and four assists in Germany’s top flight.

A SECOND CHANCE

Speculation was rife in summer 2018 that Lookman would secure an immediate, permanent return to Leipzig, but Everton held firm, with Silva and Brands publicly stating their intent to keep the then 20-year-old.

That they did, and after a staggered start to the campaign, Lookman began to establish himself in the squad, if not the starting XI, with Silva often turning to him as the first substitute, including in huge games away at Stamford Bridge and Anfield.

Lookman looked sharp and eager to impress, though struggled to maintain that form when handed a rare start, and as the season progressed, his chances became more infrequent, with a struggling Theo Walcott often preferred.

It should be pointed out, however, that Lookman and Walcott’s skillsets differ. Both though comfortable in wide areas, Lookman is much more of a playmaker, more akin to Bernard in that sense, rather than the more traditional wing play of Walcott. One player to run in behind, one player to cut inside and link the play from the other flank. It would hardly be getting the best out of Lookman to have him play the first role, whereas Walcott’s pace – if nothing else – provides him with the edge in that regard.

Lookman’s final appearance at Goodison Park in an Everton shirt almost brought a moment to savour. A clever turn, some neat footwork and an exceptional shot that, had it been inches lower, would have buried itself in the top corner.

As it was, the bar came to Burnley’s rescue and has seemingly provided an apt summary to Lookman’s stint with the Toffees. Close to excellence, but falling just short of the mark.

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