The sight of Donny van de Beek heading to pastures new during the January transfer window was not all that surprising, with the only shock being that it had taken him so long to locate and force open an exit at Manchester United.
Having found himself stuck in the shadows for the best part of 18 months, the talented playmaker was finally freed to find a suitable stage on which to showcase his talent – without having to concern himself with the headache of packing bags for a move away from familiar surrounds in the North West.
So desperate was the Dutchman to get away from Manchester that he has given up potential outings on an elite European stage, with his parent club still ranked as 20/1 shots for continental glory within UEFA Champions League winner odds at Paddy Power.
To be fair, he has only had 480 minutes of action in that competition while tied to the Red Devils, across 10 outings, and is already fast closing in on that figure while turning out for Everton in the Premier League. Shackles that have been holding him back for far too long are finally being shaken on Merseyside.
The obvious question now is – how long will he be sticking around at Goodison Park? An initial loan agreement is only due to run through to the end of the 2021/2022 campaign and includes no purchase option for the Toffees. United, it would appear, are not giving up on Van de Beek just yet, but is he preparing to give up on them?
The classy midfielder will undoubtedly have spent recent years wondering which direction his career is heading in. Within weeks of his arrival in English football from Ajax it became clear that he was not going to figure as prominently for new employers as he had initially hoped.
A fresh start had been speculated on for several months prior to Everton winning the race for the sought-after signature. While Van de Beek has all too often been out of sight over recent months, he has never been out of mind.
Hitting the ground running as part of Frank Lampard’s new-look squad was always going to be a big ask, with there obvious rust to remove, but early outings have been positive enough and hint at more to come from a player with match-altering ability.
Everton and Van de Beek could prove to be a match made in heaven, one that rekindles a lost spark in both and allows dreams of a brighter future to form. Both, though, have a part to play in enhancing a budding relationship to the point that a parting of ways becomes too painful to consider.
It is not much of a stretch to imagine the Netherlands international demanding a permanent transfer this summer – with too many broken promises made – and if he wants out, then United will have little option but to sell.
The Toffees should find themselves at the front of a recruitment queue when another window swings open, but it is also on them to keep Van de Beek sweet and leave him longing for more as part of an ambitious project heading in the right direction.