We’ve all had that moment over the Christmas dinner table where one of our relatives has said something distinctly un-pc and certainly not acceptable for 2019 – and you do that look of incredulity, roll your eyes and think here we go again. Well, last year the eye rolls had plenty of practice to achieve perfection each time someone spoke about young Everton forward Moise Kean.
Arriving from Juventus in the summer, plenty of people were hyped to see just what Kean could do, but things just didn’t gel for him or Everton in the first half of the season. Manager Marco Silva seemed to have as much of a clue over how to use Kean in his side as Diego Costa has over on the field etiquette.
It seemed he would get off to a flyer, Everton made a huge deal in his unveiling over the racist abuse he suffered in Italy and how that wouldn’t be the case here. So far, so good. However, as the season rolled on, we hardly saw anything of Kean and when we did, it was underwhelming to say the least.
Then came the discussion on Sky Sports over why this was, when questions were raised about his attitude. That caused outrage from a large majority of people, given there had been very little to indicate that was the issue – and being late for training a couple of times doesn’t constitute an attitude problem. Poor timekeeping yes, but pointing to that being part of a bigger personality issue is lazy at best. It simply seemed Silva couldn’t work out how to get the best from a striker who’s been rated as one of the biggest prospects in world football.
It looked like Kean could be on his way out of the club, until the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti. It was reported that Ancelotti made it clear to the Everton board he felt he could get the best out of Kean, and this is, of course, the man who not only got the very best out of Didier Drogba but also was arguably the only manager to get Drogba and Anelka to play well together.
Ancelotti might be accused of not being able to put together a squad of his own from scratch, but one thing he can certainly do is work with players he has and make them into better versions of themselves. He did it at Chelsea and Real Madrid, and has consistently improved players throughout his career.
During Everton’s win over Newcastle, Kean played and did well – so much so that Ancelotti praised him for the solid hour he had on the field. That might seem trivial, but for a young player living in a country they don’t know, at a club where things have been a total mess this season, bolstering his attitude will be key.
People are so quick to judge, and often forget it takes players a while to adapt to the Premier League, the most demanding league in football. We saw it with Didier Drogba when he came to Chelsea, we saw it last season with Naby Keita, we saw it with David De Gea. Players need time to get their bearings and adapt – and usually give far better second seasons than their first.
Some players totally failed to adapt to the Premier League – and never really looked comfortable being here. Names like Hernan Crespo and Veron are huge on the stage of world football, but the Premier League wasn’t quite for them. The wrong manager, the wrong club, the wrong time – it can turn you from a world-class player into a laughing stock. Just ask Radamel Falcao.
It’s a saving grace for Kean that Ancelotti has come to the club – and not, for example, a David Moyes type figure. Ancelotti has called for ‘calm’ and made it clear he will give Kean time – something that is also a precious commodity in football. The time he can afford to give Kean has been helped by the rise of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who seems a different beast since Marco Silva departed.
There have been plenty of times where players far more established and far older than Kean have needed more time to adapt and a manager with a greater tactical palate to help them. Fans and the media are so quick to judge and so quick to make a story where sometimes there isn’t one just to fill column inches or a conversation down the pub, and that can’t be allowed to happen here.
Thankfully for Kean, it seems Ancelotti is also unwilling to see that become the case.