In this era of social media and accessibility of information, it’s always quite a surprise when a leftback is mentioned by name and a venerated manager goes “Who?”, but Luke Garbutt aside, Everton yesterday announced the signing of a young leftback for the Under-23 side that had the majority of the fanbase going “Who?”
Director of Football Marcel Brands later added that the club had been following Niels Nkounkou for the last few months at Olympique Marseille’s youth squad. The lanky leftback will be joining as a free agent following the lapse of his contract, with word that the player had turned down a new contract to try out his prospects elsewhere.
The 19-year-old will be expected to join the Under-23 side which has been shorn of a number of stalwarts following the release of captain Morgan Feeney, Alex Denny, and Matty Foulds among others after their current deals expired.
To get a better idea of the player himself, we spoke with friend of the blog, Jeremy Smith, a Brighton fan, and French football writer and podcaster at French Football Weekly:
RBM: Jeremy, this news came out of nowhere for Everton fans, what do you know about Niels?
JS: Not a huge amount as he hasn’t yet appeared for Marseille’s first team (he’s just made the bench a couple of times). But he’s a well-regarded young left back who can also play further up the left flank. He is a little like a Benjamin Mendy in that he is strong, has a great engine and can patrol the whole flank all match and has a decent shot and cross on him too.
He’s also a little raw though, and needs to work a lot on his positioning and particularly his concentration. A big ban after a red card for fighting with an opponent last year suggests that he may also need to work a little on his temperament. The fact that Juventus and RB Leipzig were also rumoured to be interested gives an idea of his potential.