The Garish Gerard Deulofeu, A Coming of Age Story

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A Wunderkind Destined For Greatness | Gerard Deulofeu
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The Golden Player In A Golden Generation | Gerard Deulofeu

The football marvel nicknamed Geri by the Everton faithful was first introduced to many of us as “the next big thing out of La Masia”, when he inked a personal endorsement deal with Nike at the tender age of 14, Gerard Deulofeu seems to have been a promising talent on the peripheral of a breakthrough campaign forever and a day; many purists begun to wonder if he could indeed overcome the pitfalls that befell the last 14 year old football prodigy to have a Nike contract. Much like Freddy Adu before him, Geri went on to make his professional debut as a teenager, after showing great promise and technical dexterity in the youth ranks; Barcelona’s success-rate at nurturing young talent and the institutions holistic approach to youth development may have given Geri an advantage over many of his peers, yet his talent alone stood him head and shoulders above his age mates from day one.

A Catalonia born and bred wunderkind, Geri joined the Barcelona youth team structures in 2003 as a nine year old prodigy who had spent hours breaking vases in his mothers living room when he wasn’t on the village football pitch honing his ball skills; the progression of a player that stood out amongst fellow young starlets at La Masia was swift and remarkable, as scouts and journalists begun to rave about his outstanding potential and remarkable ability with the ball at his feet. Geri’s early gradation from youth cadet to professional came as little surprise to those who had been monitoring his impressive progress, making his Barcelona B debut as a 75th minute substitute on March 2nd, 2011; the then 16 year old protégé seemed destined for a great future in the Blaugrana colours. Promotion into Pep Guardiola’s star studded 1st team came later on in 2011 as he featured on the bench while continuing his acclimatisation into the first team setup; Geri continued to play regularly for the B side in the Segunda Division as he steadily added more dimension to his attacking game and regularly became a scorer or provider of goals and jaw-dropping YouTube videos.

Gerard excelled for the Barça B side and the Spanish youth teams during 2011 and 2012, when he cemented his undeniable status as one of the most gifted footballers in his blessed generation by being crowned as the Golden Player, an award handed to the player of the tournament, at the 2012 UEFA European u-19 Championship; Deulofeu’s great form and steady development was rewarded when he seemed to have his long-term Barcelona future cemented with a 5 year contract inked on May 15th, 2013. Barça seemed intent to fast track the development of a very precious talent when they agreed to loan him to Everton for the 2013/14 season on July 10th; the loan was seen as the perfect opportunity for the lad to play more competitive football in a team that shares a similar playing ideology to that taught to youngsters at La Masia. Showing glimpses of his great potential during his 25 games in the Everton blue, Geri seemed to thrive under the tutelage of a fellow Catalonian, Roberto Martinez, and his performances alerted all and sundry to the fact that he had more than enough ability to play at the elite level and develop into a genuine superstar, in time.

The loan spell appeared to have served its purpose for the player, and many expected him to return to Barça and play a significant role in the new Luis Enrique project. Included in the 1st team squad in May 2014, Gerard found himself packing his bags for another season-long loan spell on August 14th as Barça reached an agreement with Sevilla. The decision to loan out a talented young player to a league rival baffled many onlookers, and the player himself; the deal proved to be an unsuccessful one for all parties and it came as no surprise when Spanish newspaper Marca named him in their “Worst Team of the Season” during his stay with the Andalusians, Geri played 17 times and got a return of just one goal for his inconsistent form and irregular appearances, his only goal in the Spanish top flight thus far.

It was baffling to see how the stock of such a talented young footballer could fall in less than 12 months; Barcelona, under Enrique, seemed to have other players in mind to provide cover for their star studded attacking unit and Gerard now seemed surplus to requirements at a club he captained at youth level, a club he seemed destined to play for since his birth in the little village of Riudarenes. Deulofeu had his misery ended by a manager who still believed that he was indeed one of the most gifted young footballers on the planet, signing a 3 year deal with the Toffees for a relatively bargain fee of £4.2m in May of 2015. The deal itself remains a complex one, Barcelona hold buy-back clauses for the first two years of his contract, meaning that they can buy him back for an agreed £6.3m after the culmination of the current campaign or pay £8.3m to lure him back at the end of next season. Everton will also enjoy a significant share of any profit Barcelona would garner from buying him back with the intention of using their powerhouse status to sell him on for a larger asking price in the near future, the Toffees would also have first option on the player if Barcelona were to buy him back and look to sell him on as well. Such terms would have been deemed unfeasible by many ambitious clubs looking to add to their side, but all parties needed the deal to go through; Barça needed their protégé to move to a club where he could develop further, while Everton knew that they would be signing a young player who could add immense value to their galaxy of young stars, Geri needed to be at a club where he felt wanted and appreciated for his great gifts.

If one did not know any better, you would think that Gerard Deulofeu was a seasoned campaigner in danger of wasting his best years as a pro; although he seems to have been on the scene since before many had heard of a Neymar Jr., the 21 year old technician has only just entered the final phase of his developmental process and his overall game could reach FIFA Ballon d’Or contender level once he reaches his apex. Modern football and its advancements have combined to make it even harder for the truly special young talents to fully develop before being judged alongside finished articles; Geri may have been fortunate to get his permanent move to Everton after a failed loan stint with Sevilla, yet the lad deserves all the good favour and grace coming his way for the manner in which he departed from his childhood club.

The 2015-16 season has been a notable one for revivals and rebuilding for many clubs, players, managers and fans alike, the resurgence of one of the premier young talents in Europe has coincided with the return to form of many Everton starlets; the Fantastic Four young stars have been to credit for much of Everton’s resurgence, John Stones seems to grow in stature with every solid performance, while the attacking trio of Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu has combined to amaze and enthral many onlookers with their determined and driven displays further up field. Geri has already gone about proving his worth to the club with 7 of Romelu Lukaku’s 13 strikes thus far coming from the man “The Animal” has amply nicknamed “The Supplier”. Flair players with great ability often need to feel loved and appreciated by those around them, it is that confidence which fuels their creativity & desire to perform at a high level consistently; Gerard has felt loved at Everton since his 1st stint at the club & his swift acclimatisation was aided by his desire to pay back the faith Everton have invested in him, twice. So far, so good for a lad that is fast becoming a terrace favourite with his electrifying runs and telling contribution on both ends of the field; 3 goals and 10 assists in all competitions already this season should have Barcelona faxing over an offer to Goodison Park sooner rather than later.

Gerard Deulofeu

Bio

Full Name: Gerard Deulofeu Lázaro

DoB: March 13th, 1994 (21)

PoB: Riudarenes, Girona; Catalonia, Spain

Other Nationality: Catalonian

Height: 1, 77m

Position: Winger, Advanced Playmaker, Inside Forward, Advanced Forward, Trequartista (Left/Right/Centre)

Preferred Foot: Right

Current Club: Everton FC

Club Jersey No: #19

Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2018

Youth Development Nests: Penya Esportiva Bons Aires, FC Barcelona

Former Clubs: FC Barcelona B (2011-2013), FC Barcelona (2011-2015), Everton (2013-2014; Loan), Sevilla (2014-2015; Loan)

Market Value: £4.3m

Career Club Record: 147 Games; 37 Goals; 30 Assists

Caps & Goals: Spain (1 Cap); Catalonia (1 Cap); Spain u/16 (4 Caps, 1 Goal); u/17 (21 Caps, 6 Goals); u/19 (19 Caps, 5 Goals); u20 (7 Caps, 3 Goals); u/21 (24 Caps, 13 Goals)

Honours: La Liga Winner (2012-13, Barcelona); UEFA Europa League Winner (2014-15, Sevilla); UEFA European u-19 Championship Winner (2011, 2012); UEFA European u-17 Championship Runner-Up (2010) & UEFA European u-19 Championship Golden Player (2012)

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Attracting Attention; The Refulgent Rise of Romelu Lukaku

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Its Like Meeting Clarke Kent, A Boy & His Hero | Romelu Lukaku & Didier Drogba
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Primed For Greatness | A Teenage Romelu Lukaku

#TheSuperMarket

It seems as if modern day football is the only sphere were one can become a professional at 16 and still have their ability & potential doubted and discussed even though one continues to perform at the elite level and show gradual signs of improvement; which brings be to the question of the day, why do we still continue to doubt and underrate Romelu Lukaku?

Having recently cemented his place in football history by joining the EPL “50 before 23 Club”, becoming the 5th footballer to score 50 Premier League goals before the age of 23, joining an illustrious honour roll that includes Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney & Cristiano Ronaldo; Romelu should be seen as an elite level star when we consider the body of work he has compiled at 22, with the different clubs and philosophies he has played under thrown into consideration. The fact that Lukaku scored no goals for Chelsea in his time at the club is actually laudable in hindsight; Romelu has proven that he is an elite level finisher while excelling at clubs that don’t always provide the quality chances afforded to leading forwards at other top sides in the realm. It comes as no surprise that bigger clubs have been sniffing around Merseyside with the view of signing a player that has now earned the right to compete in Europe and prove his worth against some of the best clubs in the world, yet his gaffer, Roberto Martínez, may have been right to quickly refute those rumoured by adding that his star front man would easily fetch £ 55m in the current market climate; that figure is testament to the potential many saw in the teenager that seemed to bully men twice his age and score goals for fun at an alarming rate.

A boyhood Chelsea fan and a youngster that looked up to Blues legend Didier Drogba, one wouldn’t be remiss to think that Romelu felt hard done by in his time at the club, and rightly so, his performances out on loan were not justly rewarded with a spell in the first team; proving doubters wrong seems to be a driving factor for a young man who doesn’t seem to need much fuel to gas himself up once he gets in his Terminator Zone. Being touted as a young superstar in the making for your entire adult life can have a differing impact on different young players, Romelu seemed to carry the burden of his great potential and rave reviews until they threatened to either break him, or make him a better man; at 22, with a great career ahead of him, and some sound development behind him, the lad seems primed to fulfil and even exceed the expectations many had of the young lad that led scoring charts as a teenager and had scouts raving endlessly about his great future in the game.

Everton have had to deal with tons of transfer speculation regarding their key players over the past 24 months, be it Kevin Mirallas, Ross Barkley, John Stones, or Romelu Lukaku, the club have remained steadfast in their stance and refuse to be held ransom by any party; the investment into this current project has been measured and methodical in many regards and the Toffees will be conscious of the fact that they cannot keep hold of their stars without offering them good remuneration and the opportunity to play regularly at the highest level, European football will be essential for Everton and Bobby Martínez if they seek to sustain their resolve. Inversely, Everton could cash in on one or two assets and have enough in the kitty to go back in the market and rebuild around other talented young prospects with great potential and good resale value; the current crop of stars are on good long-term deals and playing some of their best football at an ambitious club that has the ability to match its lofty ambitions, yet we have seen good projects rebuilt due to players leaving for greener pastures and shinny trinkets.

The transfer speculation has been justified by Romelu’s brilliant numbers and performances this season; having led the attacking line alone for most of his career, Lukaku has now begun to show just how dynamic he can be with is amalgamation of pace, power and precision combining to make for a quintessential modern age striker that scores goals add adds genuine value to an attacking unit. Everton raised many eyebrows when they paid a club record £ 28m to sign Lukaku in July of 2013, Chelsea had doubled their investment on a player they were choosing to discard and it seemed like a brilliant piece of business for the club; hindsight may have us believing that The Blues actually did themselves a disservice in selling a player that could come back to haunt them, on the field, or cost them financially, when the inevitably seek to by him back in years to come. The Toffees seem set to double their investment into Lukaku, should they look to cash in on their star striker; the Romelu doubters are quietly being silenced with each passing season of growth and development, while the finished article may be far from arrival, Bob’s your Lierse S.K. beer mug having uncle, this lad will go down in history as a pretty decent striker when all is said and done.

Romelu Lukaku

Bio

Full Name: Romelu Menama Lukaku

DoB: May 13th, 1993 (22)

PoB: Antwerp, Belgium

Other Nationality: Congolese

Height: 1, 90m

Position: Advanced Forward, Complete Forward, Target-Man

Preferred Foot: Left

Current Club: Everton FC

Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2019

Youth Development Nests: Rupel Boom (99-03), KFC Wintam (03-04), Lierse (04-06), Anderlecht (06-09)

Former Clubs: Anderlecht (09-2011), Chelsea (2011-2014), West Bromwich Albion (2012-2013; Loan), Everton (2013-2014; Loan)

Market Value: £21m

Asking Price: £ 55m

Career Club Record: 248 Games; 105 Goals; 45 Assists

Caps & Goals: Belgium (37 Caps, 11 Goals); u/15 (4 Caps, 1 Goal); u/18 (1 Cap); u/21 (8 Caps, 1 Goal)

Possible Destinations

Paris Saint-Germain

The Parisian Project has not truly yielded a great return on investment, for the millions invested, there is no sign of the team improving and taking those extra leaps forward in Europe; winning the league is now a prerequisite for PSG when one considers their vast abundance of talent and riches, combined with the gradual decline of some of their closest rivals thrown in for good measure. The current offensive line has been in need of a face-lift for 18-odd months and now the missing piece seems to be a young elite level ready talent to lead an exciting attacking line that would include the dynamic duo of Lucas Moura and Ángel Di María; Romelu Lukaku would fit the bill perfectly as he would continue to develop at a high level and grow with another ambitious group of players that have the potential to truly flourish at the elite level.

The PSG link is considered unrealistic by those that feel as if Romelu may not be the marquee buy the club would need to lure in as a direct replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimović, yet the Belgian International would provide the club with a player that can contribute immensely from the onset, while still possessing the scope to grow and develop further into a player they’d be looking to add to their roster in years to come. Romelu Lukaku could be the dynamic figurehead an attacking side like PSG would require if they want to go further in the Champions League during the coming seasons, the lure of becoming s star at one of Europe’s most illustrious clubs and competing for major honours would be hard for any player to snub without due consideration and just merit.

Juventus

There is an age-old belief in football, that form is temporary while class remains permanent; no truer words can be spoken regarding Juventus and how they managed to rebuild their club, after a shambolic end to an era, and re-establish themselves as a European powerhouse that can compete with the best of them. A new stadium and increased revenue from improved commercial appeal has now enabled the Old Lady of Turin to compete on the transfer market as well, while Italian teams are known to scour the lesser followed territories for talent or buy proven players that are being undervalued at some bigger European clubs, instead of procuring a star for big money from another European rival; Juve seem conscious of the fact that their talisman, Paul Pogba, would be more inclined to leave if he remains one of the truly superstar players on the roster every season. The arrival of a big money buy, or two, could settle any unrest in the Pogba camp and afford the current group an optimal opportunity at succeeding together while capitalising on the great growth experienced by Juve in their rise back to the top.

Romelu Lukaku has the physical and technical gifts to excel in Italian football, and the thought of playing in more of a partnership upfront would be enticing for any forward looking to improve and up their output on the field; if Juventus were looking to rebuild their team around an attacking tandem of Lukaku and Paulo Dybala, they’d potentially create the ideal “Big & Small” striker combination for their flexible and direct style of football. Such a move would require brevity and a genuine interest from all parties, Juve do have the attraction and the pedigree to tempt any player in the realm, yet they would need to step out of their comfort zone a tad bit by investing big money in a signing that could pay off exponentially in years to come.

Arsenal

The two most recent Everton to Arsenal transfers would scare of many thoughts of a Lukaku move to London Colney; Francis Jeffers is the name that comes to mind for many, a “fox-in-the-box” that cost good money and showed little in return during his spell at Arsenal, all after establishing himself as an exciting young talent on Merseyside. Mindful of the fact that we live in a different time, and Romelu is a completely different player, the lessons must be learned if one is to fully grow and actually learn; Arsenal do need a different option upfront, some might add that “quality” would be the operative word to add in that statement, and Romelu Lukaku is dynamic enough to add that extra bit of quality to an already gifted attacking unit.

For all the flack Olivier Giroud catches, he does score some of the endless opportunities he often seems to be provided and that fact cannot be overlooked, the one true flaw in his game is his evident lack of pace and the ability to make definitive runs off the ball when his team is in possession for long period of time; the addition of Lukaku would mean that Arsenal can remain with a focal point or outlet ball at all times, yet they would now also have a big man that can hold it up or get in behind and offer more goalscoring options. The fact that Lukaku is young, talented and proven in the EPL will make one question the feasibility of Le Prof dipping into his vast transfer kitty to sign a player he was rumoured to be close to snatching from under the noses of Chelsea when he was still a teen; one thing is sure, Arsenal have signed lesser forwards than Romelu and the lad would add true quality to their current side, and a Belgian international on your roster is the new accessory in European football.

Chelsea

The “buy-them-cheap, sell-them-steep” transfer policy employed at Chelsea now seems to be questionable when we consider the on-field returns on those investments; Chelsea have been a team in need of a rebuild even prior to winning their title last season, yet they wouldn’t have needed to tap into the market for those replacements, as they had quietly amassed a roster of talented young players befitting of a seasoned Football Manager enthusiast shopping off the Wunderkind Lists made available on the net. Fast forward 24 months, and three of their former charges have developed into the calibre of player needed at Stamford Bridge currently; Marco van Ginkel would have given them more defensive solidity and allowed Cesc Fàbregas to play further forward against more direct opposition, Kevin De Bruyne would have negated the need for an overreliance on Eden Hazard and Willian or aided in the avoidance of Oscar becoming burned out when he should be shining brightest.

Undoubtedly, the biggest loss was that of a player that seemed destined to replace his boyhood hero and become the bullish yet sophisticated striker Chelsea have had since the days of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Tore André Flo; a combination of factors can be attributed to the regrettable departure of Lukaku from Cobham, yet one would be remiss not the think that Romelu would be welcomed back with open arms by all and sundry at Chelsea. The Diego Costa experiment may not last as long as many hoped it would, he has begun to be more disruptive than he is dependable for goals and his dip in form has coincided with a general decline in the team’s ability to be effective under the current systems deployed. A new frontline striker will be needed at Chelsea, sooner rather than later, and the outside bet would be a move for a player that wouldn’t need much time acclimatising to a ground and a jersey he has adored since he was just a boy; the good money would be on whether The Blues have it within them to spend big on buying back a player they shouldn’t have let leave in the first place.

Attracting Attention; Yacine Brahimi, The Creative Solution

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Yacine Brahimi

The African Cup of Nations has long been renowned as a fertile scouting ground for European sides to scout potential editions to their sides during the January transfer period, although we have come to see lesser known quantities raise to the top of wanted lists across the fraternity after a few impressive showings in Africa’s greatest football showpiece, we often get to witness some of the more famous names prove that they are amongst the Continents elite talents; this 30th edition of the Afcon has produced a great mixture of both and we at GSV are delighted to introduce you to a few of those lads and the sides they would be suited for in our Attracting Attention feature.

Yacine Brahimi is a creative midfield player who has already turned his fair share of heads with his impressive displays at domestic level, yet it has been his dominance in a high pressing and hardworking Algeria side that has seen his name return to the top of a few elite level scouts “highly rated” lists during the last few months; his dynamic passing game and industrious style of play denote that he is perfectly suited for modern football in that engine room. Porto are known to invest in talented players, with great potential, at a young age and make a handsome profit off selling the lads to bigger sides after just a couple of campaigns in Portugal. Brahimi seemed to fit that criteria perfectly and its was no surprise to see the Portuguese giants splash out €6,5m to win his signature from Spanish side Granada FC after he had begun to attract a considerable amount of interest from some of Europe’s top sides. Granada FC made a healthy profit off a player they had signed from Stade Rennes for €4,5m a season earlier after he had spent a season on loan in Spain the season prior to that.

The former France youth international was highly rated as a youngster after coming through the ranks of the highly esteemed Clairefontaine academy and the Paris born lad was tipped by many to go onto become a full French international after amassing a considerable number of caps for France from u/16 to u/21 level. Since making his debut for Algeria in 2013 in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Benin, Brahimi has developed into a regular fixture for The Desert Warriors and the lad now forms part of an exciting and industrious engine room that can develop into one of Africa’s most feared midfield combinations for the next two football cycles and lead Algeria to a new level of success.

The Little Magician is now a player that seems to be on the cusp of another big move, one that could net FC Porto the handsome profit they are fond of making off every deal they make. With his current market value sitting at €8m and 3 years still to run on his current deal, FC Porto will be eager to set an asking price in the region of €15m for any side enquiring about the availability of the talented attacking midfielder. Brahimi seems like a good fit for a league where well balanced attacking midfielders are regarded as commodities worth being converted; a league like the English Premier League seems tailor-made for a player of his calibre, and there are a few sides that have been linked with his signature in the past. Liverpool FC, Tottenham Hotspur FC and Everton FC all seem like a good fit for a player that offers great offensive value and a high degree of defensive acumen in midfield.

Liverpool

With Steven Gerrard confirmed to be leaving Anfield at the end of the season and gaffer Brendan Rodgers experimenting with a more adventurous formation and a style of play that implores the side to retain possession very well and create an abundant amount of attacking opportunities, Brahimi seems to be the calibre of footballer they ought to be targeting as an addition to a side that will be short of a midfield general come June. Brahimi would allow Liverpool to play Phillipe Coutinho further forward where he can impact proceedings even more and allow for a greater degree of balance centrally as Yacine would play alongside a more robust ball-winning midfielder like Emre Can and add more quality to that engine room.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs are known to splash the cash on talented lads that have often been unable to cement their places in the starting unit for a myriad of reasons, yet Brahimi would be a the type of footballer they have been lacking for a few seasons; versatile and creative with the engine to contribute well on both ends of the field with ease, Brahimi would form a formidable central midfield double-pivot partnership with his international teammate Nabil Bentaleb for Spurs, a partnership that could grow even further in the coming seasons.

Everton FC

Roberto Martinez is a gaffer that enjoys watching his side play a good brand of attacking football while remaining defensively solid at all times, with his side lacking a touch of quality this season, one would think that Brahimi would be an excellent addition for The Toffees as the aim to consistently play at that high octane level they thrive off playing on. With Kevin Mirallas rumoured to be on his way out in the not too distant future and the bench already looking pretty desperate for a touch of quality, Everton are a side that could use a versatile and skilled pass master in their side to help elevate their playing standard even further.

There should be no shortage of suitors for the Paris born Algerian playmaker, and with FC Porto known to always have a price for their talent, one cannot help but think its only a matter of time before Yacine Brahimi is on the move yet again and finally getting a chance to display his skills at one of the bigger sides in some of Europe’s more converted leagues. The time is right for the lad to move now, as he enters the peak years of his career and starts to fully grasp his responsibilities as a midfield general that can play at the highest level of the game and become a true global star in his own right.

Bio

Name: Yacine Brahimi

DoB: February 8th, 1990 (24)

PoB: Paris, France

Nationality: Algerian

Caps & Goals: 14 caps, 4 goals

Position/s: Advanced Playmaker, Attacking Midfielder, Winger

Club: FC Porto

Market Value: €8m