The 23-year-old enjoyed a stellar loan spell on Merseyside in 2013/14, inspiring Everton to secure his services for £4.2million from Barça a year later after a stint with Sevilla. But he suffered a slump in form at the beginning of last season, leading to him being loaned out to Serie A giants Milan.
After an impressive 17-game spell in the Italian top flight, in which he rediscovered some of the sparkle that saw him initially become adored at Goodison Park, Barcelona are thought to be weighing up whether to exercise the £10million buy-back option they hold on the player. Meanwhile, newly-cash-rich Milan are also considering a bid to make his San Siro switch permanent.
But as Everton, emboldened by the financial boost of billionaire Farhad Moshiri’s investment last year, look to crack the Premier League top six, an in-form Deulofeu could be an asset for the Toffees. And the dynamic displays he produced with the Rossoneri in the second half of the season would suggest his performances prior to his departure from England were merely a blip.
Everton will be looking to invest heavily in their squad this summer but there is reason to believe that Deulofeu could return to the club a man renewed, instantly improving the attacking options at Ronald Koeman’s disposal.
Especially when, if reports are to be believed, the players agent is unhappy about Barcelona’s interest becoming public.
That, coupled with the fact the player himself has concerns over a return to Spain means a deal may not come to fruition. The winger is wary that he might not be a regular at the Nou Camp and may miss out on a chance to go to the 2018 World Cup because of it.
Deulofeu’s Return To Form In Italy
With his pace, close control, mesmerising dribbling ability and creativity, Deulofeu arrived as a breath of fresh air, sparking new life into Everton’s attack.
In that initial loan spell with the Premier League club, the two-cap Spain international showed all of the skill and technique you’d expect of a graduate from Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy.
Deulofeu featured in 22 games for Everton that season, nine starts and 13 substitute appearances for a total of 895 minutes of action. In that time, he registered three goals and three assists, meaning he was directly involved in a goal every 149.16 minutes.
When he joined the Toffees permanently for the 2015/16 campaign, although his performances suffered a dip in many respects, he still remained an influence creatively, scoring twice and assisting eight times in 26 league appearances, directly contributing to a goal once every 138.5 minutes.
Last term, however, Deulofeu’s form fell off a cliff. In the 11 appearances – for 458 minutes on the pitch – before his loan to Milan, he contributed zero goals or assists. His pass accuracy slipped to 72 per cent from the 73.6 per cent of the previous campaign and 78.5 per cent from his loan spell.
During his initial loan from Barcelona, Deulofeu was completing an incredible 4.4 dribbles per 90 minutes. Last season he was averaging 3.9 per 90 – still an exceptional figure but the decline hinted at a slight loss of confidence.
His key passes per 90 were also down last term, dropping to two per 90 from 2.3 the season before.
However, in Serie A, the Spaniard has rediscovered some of his potency, scoring four goals and registering three assists in 17 outings, as well as raising the accuracy of his passing to 82.3 per cent in Vincenzo Montella’s gifted young side.
He was dribbling slightly less in Italy – three successful take-ons per 90 – but produced the highest rate of chance creation of his career to date, providing 2.6 key passes per 90.
Still Valuable To Everton?
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At 23, Deulofeu is still a relatively young player. But his displays in Serie A seem to show a new level of maturity. The winger appears to have done away with his habit of over-playing and underproducing, finding a sweet spot between risk-taking and accuracy.
This could serve Everton well, as a returning, more mature yet still developing Deulofeu would be an ideal compliment to Koeman’s attack. Of all the players currently at the Dutch coach’s disposal, none could beat the former Barça youngster’s total of 2.6 key passes per 90, with Tottenham Hotspur transfer target Ross Barkley matching it exactly.
The 3.9 dribbles per 90 that he produced before leaving for Italy remains the highest average of any Everton player from last season too.
When it comes to Deulofeu’s average of contributing to a goal, as either scorer or creator, once every 209 minutes with Milan, only Chelsea transfer target Romelu Lukaku (105.42 minutes) and Kevin Mirallas (208.1 minutes) managed to better the former Sevilla loanee last term.