Everton’s desperate need for a midfielder is there for all to see, but it now seems one target is creeping towards becoming a done deal.
And it’s someone Carlo Ancelotti is already very familiar with.
Allan has become one of the most common names linked with a potential switch to Goodison Park over the past few weeks and the Napoli star looks set to link up with his former manager once again.
The ECHO understands the Blues have made a significant breakthrough in talks with the Italian side and are understood to be on the brink of agreeing a £22m deal and the Everton boss is clearly a huge fan of his former player.
To know that, you only need to look back as far as November and the Italian’s trip to Merseyside to face Liverpool in the Champions League, just a few weeks before he would take a job across Stanley Park with the Blues.
The Serie A side secured a 1-1 draw against Jurgen Klopp’s men thanks to a first half Dries Mertens goal being cancelled out by a Dejan Lovren strike in the second.
But one man stood out for Ancelotti following the final whistle.
He said: “I have spoken to the president. He is really pleased and thanked the players for their efforts.
“Allan was the best player on the pitch tonight. He is back to his best level.”
However, just 13 days later, Ancelotti had been sacked as Napoli boss. From that point on, the midfielder has found things decidedly more tough.
Gennaro Gattuso was brought in to replace the eventually Everton-bound manager but Allan dropped out of his plans throughout the remainder of the term.
The Brazilian made 19 appearances following the sacking of Ancelotti, but only seven of those were from the start of matches.
As such, that “best level” which was highlighted by the boss after his brilliant display on Merseyside was unfortunately hardly seen again throughout 2019/20.
Transfer rumours circulated for some time, but they were very different in January 2019 when Paris Saint-Germain were said to be sniffing around a potential swoop – alongside their pursuit of Everton’s Idrissa Gueye.
But Ancelotti’s view on the Brazilian was the same, he had high hopes for his future.
He said at that time: “Allan is our player, he had some temptation, but is very important for us and will be in future too.
“He just hasn’t trained much lately, which is why he hasn’t been playing as much.”
The French giants didn’t sign either player in that window and, of course, waited until the summer to bring the Blues man in – which is still causing issues on Merseyside to this day.
Everton’s need to replace the gaping hole Gueye has left in the centre of the pitch was on full display in the closing matches of the campaign in particular, with midfield performances lacking on far too many occasions.
Ancelotti’s 4-4-2 style didn’t seem to fit with many of the club’s options in that area, but that could well be different for Allan if he were to move to Goodison.
Looking at his stats on Wyscout gives a clear indication on why the manager would be keen to link up with the Brazilian once again. He’s not a like-for-like replacement for Gueye by any means, but he has the skills to improve Everton.
Comparing him with Andre Gomes, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Tom Davies and Fabian Delph paints an interesting picture of just what areas the Blues need to up their game.
Looking particularly at defensive duels, Allan attempted 9.67 on average per 90 minutes across his appearances in Serie A last term.
Only Gomes with a figure of 8.95 in the Premier League got close to that in terms of Everton’s selection. Sigurdsson’s return of 6.32 was the next best.
Allan also attempted an average of 4.07 interceptions per 90 minutes he was on the pitch in the league, again better than any of the four Blues midfielders selected.
His defensive contribution, therefore, is clear to see. He’s not scared of throwing himself into a defensive battle which is a quality the Blues missed far to often in 2019/20.
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Of course in the case of Sigurdsson he didn’t play all of his time in central midfield. He was used as an attacking midfielder and on the wing throughout the term which will undoubtedly affect his numbers.
But, while Delph spent more time than he would have liked on the sidelines, his figures compare fairly well to the Everton target in a number of areas.
In terms of average passes per 90 minutes, for example, it’s the former Man City man who comes out on top with 51.86 – just ahead of Allan on 50.82. That’s slightly more than Gomes and streets ahead of both Davies and Sigurdsson.
For forward passes, again Delph has the most with an average of 16.36, ahead of the Napoli midfielder with 14.29.
Passes into the final third are also very important for central midfielders in a 4-4-2 system and it’s another category the Brazilian performs strongly in.
His average of 8.47 per 90 minutes is just behind Gomes on 9.18 and, this time, ahead of Delph on 8.25. Davies and Sigurdsson, meanwhile, managed 6.31 and 4.86 respectively.
But being a central midfield is not always about just passing the ball. Especially in Ancelotti’s formation, there is a desire for players to power forwards with the ball.
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Allan completed an average of 2.65 dribbles and 1.23 progressive runs per 90 minutes throughout his time on the pitch in Serie A last term.
He beats all of Everton’s four midfielders in the first category, and is only just pipped by Delph in the second.
Not only does Allan look more adept defensively than the options currently at Goodison, Jean-Philippe Gbamin aside for obvious reasons, but he marries that with an attacking intent as well.
Ancelotti admitted he was searching for more “energy” to add to the club’s midfield, and there’s little wonder his mind might have travelled back to his first trip to Merseyside this season with Napoli.
If Everton can get the “best level” out of Allan, then there’s little doubt he would be an improvement.
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