We resume the window recap with the Michael Keane transfer news from the summer. After an impressive season with Burnley, Keane joined Everton for an initial fee of £25mil. The potential fee could rise to £30mil however due to add ons. Keane has joined on a 5 year contract and said Everton was the best place for his development right now and that Koeman was the best man to manage him. So is Michael Keane right on both fronts?
We try and answer these questions and more about Keane’s future and present…
Nationality: 4 caps
Position: centre back, can play right back
Transfer Fee: £25mil (potentially rising to £30mil)
2016/17 League Stats: 35 starts (0 sub appearances) 2 goals (1 assist)
2017/18 League Stats: 6 starts (0 sub appearances)
Upon joining, Michael Keane stated he chose Everton, suggesting there were other options. He even went as far as to say joining Everton was the ‘best place’ for him to develop as opposed to joining Manchester Utd which would have been based more on his well known history and connection with the club as a youth.
When I read this I was surprised as the impression I always got (maybe wrongly) was that Utd weren’t in for Keane this summer. Certainly not in terms of a concrete offer.
So it’s admirable, if true, that he went with the option that he thought would give him more first team opportunities… I’m still not convinced though.
Utd already had Bailly, Jones, Smalling, even Blind and the injured Rojo to return, all very capable of playing at centre back. Whilst they of course also signed Lindelof from Benfica. The fact their interest in the Swede was well documented and that there was even talk of a possible move in January shows this interest was long standing. Therefore it’s hard to see why Utd would feel it necessary to move for another centre back when they were already well stocked in this area with players of at least a similar standard to Michael Keane, if not slightly better.
There was talk of Blind and Smalling possibly leaving in the summer but nothing serious materialised. So surely there would have needed to have been some sells for Utd to move for a second new centre back.
Whilst Utd may be well stocked, I wouldn’t say the standard of centre backs at Utd should necessarily scare a new arrival like Keane either. If he replicated the form he showed at Burnley he would have had a chance to compete given some of the inconsistencies and injury problems Utd have had in defence in recent seasons. I wouldn’t understand many defenders turning down Utd at the moment.
Taking everything into account, I’m struggling to believe anyone other than Everton were seriously interested.
Regardless of whether Koeman has deployed a back 4 or 3 centre backs, Michael Keane has been ever present in the league, when fit, this season for Everton. Along with Ashley Williams, Keane looks like he has already cemented himself in the Everton team. Keane looks to have got exactly what he wanted in terms of a move in which he will get a lot of game time.
Funes Mori is currently injured so it will be interesting to see what happens when he returns. Along with Jagielka and Holgate there’s a decent amount of competition for places, so whilst I expect Keane to remain first choice, even when everybody is fit, he won’t be guaranteed his place if his form continues to decline.
Going forward Keane also has a great opportunity to establish himself as an Everton centre back for the long term. Jagielka (35) and Williams (33) are both the wrong side of 30. Everton have a number of impressive young players coming through so he has a big chance to not only be a part of Everton’s exciting future but be at the forefront and possibly lead this young crop of players as the more senior player.
Keane stated Koeman was a big factor in him moving to Everton. Koeman’s playing career speaks for itself and having been a centre back, he is well placed to help with Keane’s development. Koeman was also renowned for his technical ability and while Keane isn’t at that level, he has shown that his use with the ball is looking like a potential strength of his game going forward, setting him apart from a lot of defenders.
Koeman’s managerial qualities should suit Keane.
Everton have had a poor start to the season. We touched upon this and some of their problems when looking at the Giroud rumours. However we mainly focused on their problems going forward. They’ve had just as many problems at the back. It’s fair to say that not many players in the Everton squad have covered themselves in much glory this season, Keane included.
He seems to be lacking the confidence he was playing with last season. Like so many players at Everton, he seems to be playing within himself, backing off and not asserting himself enough on games. Keane already needed to work on his decision making and concentration. So he still has a lot of work to do and is by no means the finished article.
At the moment Keane looks like 5th, possibly 4th choice centre back for England. Cahill, Phil Jones, Stones and arguably Smalling are all ahead of Keane at the moment. It could be touch and go as to whether he makes the World Cup squad and on current form he’s going to struggle. I would imagine that England will take 5 centre backs. If Harry Maguire can continue his early season form he can easily take Keane’s place. Injury would change things obviously.
However after centre midfield, centre defence is England’s weakest area. I’ve lost count of how many times Cahill has been found wanting on the international stage and he’s still widely considered (but not by me) England’s best defender. John Stones’ struggles continue. I’m far from convinced he will ever be a top class defender. Phil Jones’ injury problems are well known and have had a huge impact on his development. You could make a case for him as England’s best centre back but that doesn’t say a lot. Smalling has declined and isn’t a guaranteed starter at Utd either.
So if Keane could turn his season around, he still has every chance to stay involved in the squad and who knows even challenge for a starting place although unlikely. Everton as a club will need to improve to give Keane the right basis though.
Without doubt it’s a problem area for England with no obvious answers. Much like with Everton, Keane has every chance to establish himself as an important player for his country’s first team in the long term. He just needs to take his chance.
Even taking into account Keane’s questionable start to the season, he’s a good purchase for Everton. He’s proven to be a decent Premiership defender already and has plenty of room to improve further.
Given the lack of good defenders around at the moment, I’m surprised some bigger clubs weren’t interested. Maybe not Utd, like discussed but potentially Man City were looking for a defender, with their interest in Jonny Evans well known. Keane wouldn’t have been a bad, younger alternative.
Liverpool and Arsenal in particular though could have really done with reinforcements and some youth, with potential to grow at the back. Keane would have already been capable of challenging the likes of Monreal, Mustafi and Lovren for a starting place in my opinion.
Nonetheless Everton are a good club and have a good track record of producing top players. Keane may need to move on again to eventually fulfill his potential but for right now it’s not a bad move. Europa League football and Koeman will add something to his development too.
So Everton and Koeman are good options but maybe not the ‘best’ options for me.
I expect Everton to improve this season although it could be difficult for them to exceed expectations. It may therefore be a case of Keane having to stand still for a season before he can continue to really kick on.
He’ll likely make the Russia 2018 squad, just about.