Yannick Bolasie is in demand.
He’s no longer needed at Everton following the club’s impressive double capture of Richarlison and Bernard but is not short of potential suitors on transfer deadline day, with Middlesbrough, Burnley and Crystal Palace, his former club, locked in a three-way battle for his signature.
Having lit up Selhurst Park alongside Wilfried Zaha, Bolasie joined Everton in 2016 in a £25million deal. Four months into his Toffees career, however, the Congolese winger suffered cruciate knee ligament injury that would keep him out for a year.
The 29-year-old was a regular starter under Sam Allardyce in the second half of last season but does not figure prominently in Marco Silva’s plans.
Boro have been strongly linked but Bolasie’s wage demands are likely too high for the Championship club. But the Teesiders are expected to wrap up a deal for Everton midfielder Muhamed Bešić and seem to be pushing for Bolasie as part of an ambitious double swoop.
The Clarets’ transfer business this summer had been non-existent up until the past week. Having failed to secure a single signing, the club completed deals for Joe Hart, Ben Gibson and Matêj Vydra to turn a quiet window into a reasonably successful one.
But where should Bolasie go? A lot of people would point to his loss of form following injury as a reason for him to drop down and rebuild in the second tier. Of course, a player benefits much more from regular football, even if it is a division lower, than wasting away on the bench.
Then again, Bolasie could yet save his career as a Premier League player. The most attractive destination, you would think, is a return to Palace. There is arguably no better place in which to recapture his status as one of the league’s most devastating counter-attacking weapons than the club with whom he already shares a fond history.
Of course, should Bolasie rejoin Palace, holding down a starting berth with Zaha and Andros Townsend as competition would be no mean feat. On several occasions last season, Roy Hodgson deployed a 4-4-2 with Zaha and Townsend up top and James McArthur as a makeshift winger.
Bolasie on the right of a 4-4-2 seems a more natural fit and, with the pace of Ayew, Zaha and Townsend already, Palace have the possibility of boasting a frighteningly quick attacking line-up.
Although Sean Dyche’s Burnley do not mirror Palace in terms of style, the Clarets arguably need a natural winger more than the Eagles. Dyche currently has Aaron Lennon and Johann Berg Gudmundsson as his two primary options on the flanks. Dwight McNeil, the promising 18-year-old, can also play there but adding the more established Bolasie could serve as healthy squad competition.
Unfortunately, Bolasie is not a beacon of consistency. For all his searing pace, the winger very much thrives on confidence. When he’s low on it, he can go missing and become an enigmatic presence on the pitch. Dyche doesn’t really go in for those types of players.
This Burnley side is comprised of incorruptible workhorses, all fiercely committed to the maintaining the cohesion and chemistry that elevated the Lancashire club to seventh last season. Expecting Bolasie to slip seamlessly into the squad at Turf Moor is perhaps fanciful.
What’s more fanciful is envisaging a scenario where Bolasie stays and re-establishes himself as a fixture in the Everton line-up. The club want him to go, but want him gone permanently and not on loan.
There are benefits to Boro, Burnley and Palace. At Boro, under Tony Pulis’ no-nonsense tutelage, the winger would have a chance to rekindle his best form in a kind of big-fish-little-pond scenario. At Burnley, Dyche, another tough-minded leader, could prove pivotal in transforming Bolasie’s fortunes. But Palace undeniably trumps both when it comes to sentimentality.