There was much to cheer for the Goodison Park crowd this January Deadline Day as Everton ran out 2-1 winners against Leicester City thanks to a brace from new signing Theo Walcott.
However, whilst the 28-year-old former Arsenal forward was firing his side up the table, much of the post-match talk was about players leaving the Merseyside club.
Perhaps the most notable – or most surprising, if Sam Allardyce’s comments are anything to go by, was the loan of Ademola Lookman to RB Leipzig. Allardyce stated
It is one of the most unusual situations I’ve been in. We got some deals for him but he was adamant he chose Germany. His stubbornness meant he got his own way. I hope he proves us all wrong
Allardyce says Everton tried to “persuade” Lookman not to make a move that he thinks is a “big challenge” for the player’s development.
The youngster stormed onto the scene with a debut goal to help dispatch Manchester City 4-0 last season, however the 20-year-old has only had fleeting appearances this campaign. The club’s poor form this season,coupled with the departure of Aaron Lennon to Burnley, earlier in the window seemingly opened the door for Lookman to gain much-needed game time. His two goals against Apollon Limassol in the Europa League appeared to be the watershed moment Lookman needed in his nascent Everton career, but the summer signings of Nikola Vlasic, Gylfi Sigurdsson and the arrival of Walcott thwarted his progression.
The Londoner is now following a recent, but now well-trodden, path of young English talent moving to Germany for greater playing time.
Perhaps the most high-profile of these would be Jadon Sancho’s move to Borussia Dortmund from Manchester City but you could add Arsenal star Kaylen Hinds switch to Wolfsburg, Reece Oxford re-joining Borussia Mochengladbach and now Lookman moving to the RB to the list.
The trail-blazer for this new-wave of Premier League talent moving to German shores could have been former Crystal Palace youth Mandela Egbo who joined ‘Gladbach in the summer of 2015. The 20-year-old defender made his first appearance in Die Fohlen’s senior squad last month
However, this isn’t the first British youngster Leipzig has been able to cherry-pick from the English game in recent years as they signed Nottingham Forest highly-rated winger Oliver Burke in 2016.
Burke came with a huge price tag of £13 million usurping Ross McCormack as the most expensive Scottish player in history. The forward made an instant impact in Germany assisting Naby Keita on his league debut in a 1-0 win over Dortmund and scoring his first goal in a 1-1 draw with FC Køln going on to make 25 Bundesliga appearances.
However, Leipzig were challenging for the league title for a large portion of the season, ultimately finishing second behind Bayern Munich and with the emerging talents of Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg coming to the fore Burke soon realised his chances may be fleeting. The fact he has returned to England hoping to re-ignite a career that only eighteen months ago looked flourishing shows that the grass isn’t always greener.
As for Lookman, he was playing in the Tandridge Youth Football League for Waterloo FC U16’s when Charlton Athletic spotted the nippy winger whilst facing a London FA representative team in 2014. The teenager had never been part of an academy or attached to a big club but this didn’t deter Charlton boss Karl Robinson calling the forward the ‘best kid outside the Premier League’ when taking over at the club in November 2016. Lookman appeared in 45 matches for Charlton before being signed by Everton a year ago. With his Leipzig debut Saturday, the 5’9″attacker has 74 first-team appearances in all competitions now — a good foundation for someone who was still a teenager until last October.
The forward has always had an improvised, off-the-cuff style born out of the grassroots of Sunday League. This free-spiritedness, unshackled by the pressures of the academy system, may prove to be the extra edge that separates him from the rest.
Allardyce may not see it yet but it could well be that Lookman’s stubbornness to change his reality will be the injection his career needs and in RB Leipzig he has joined a club that is ready to give. him his moment. Lookman’s game-winning 89th minute goal after coming off the bench for Leipzig Saturday at Borussia Park may just be the tip of the iceberg for the skilled youngster.
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