In the end the result matter little with Everton having already secured their passage into the knockout rounds after three wins and two draws. With the pressure removed, manager Roberto Martinez decided to rest some of his first team players in preparation for Monday’s clash with Queens Park Rangers. It also gave him the opportunity to give some of the clubs most promising youngster’s valuable playing time. Into the starting lineup came right back Tyias Browning, left back Luke Garbutt and striker Conor McAleny whilst Kieran Dowell, Gethin Jones and Chris Long all made appearances from the substitutes bench. It said a lot about Martinez approach that Long at 19 years old, was the oldest squad player on the Everton bench. And it almost paid off with his young team restricting their Russian opponents Krasnodar to only a handful of chances with only one trickling through under reserve goalkeeper Joel Robles to hand them the victory. The fans however did not leave Goodison disappointed as they were shown a glimpse into the clubs future with the unveiling of the latest youngsters from their youth system production line. They all gave a good account of themselves but one other youngster in particular stood out above all of them.
Ledson commanded the Everton midfield against Krasnodar
(Image from PA)
Defensive midfielder Ryan Ledson is seen by the club as one of the brightest prospects to have ever emerged at the club. He took up position at the heart of the midfield alongside seasoned veteran Gareth Barry and demonstrated exactly why the club rates him so highly. Ledson controlled the game with a maturity well beyond his 17 years and looked confident on the ball throughout. His passing both short and long was exceptional with 91% of the 56 passes he made hitting their mark whilst his superb positioning at all times help Everton to retain its shape especially when under pressure from the five man Krasnodar midfield. Having been at Everton since the age of five, Ledson is very much at home at the club and is pushing hard to get into the first team as a regular squad member. Progress has been quicker than expected with Everton keen to secure the player for the long run rather than lose him to potential suitors like Manchester City and Tottenham who have been rumoured to be interested. It would appear though that Ledson has no intentions of playing for anyone else by signing his first professional contract with Everton in August. This was swiftly followed by a first team bench appearance against Southampton, and although he didn’t make it on to the pitch it was a signal of intent by Martinez that he sees Ledson very much in his plans. England are also keen to ensure that Ledson is part of their long term plans having already watched him excel at Under 17 level. Ledson played a significant role as captain as he led the England Under 17 national team to European Championship success last season. Now very much part of Gareth Southgate’s Under 21 squad, it won’t be long until he follows in Ross Barkley’s footsteps into Roy Hodgson’s full team.
Ledson signed his first pro deal in August (Image from Getty)
Before that happens, Ledson knows that he must establish himself as a regular starter at Everton. His performance against Krasnodar will go a long way to helping this transition with Roberto Martinez praising the way that he played. This won’t be the last time that we see him pull the strings for Everton at the heart of their midfield.
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After failing to spark with Chelsea and coming under attack from his own manager for being too old, it was hardly surprising that Samuel Eto’o exited Stamford Bridge in the summer. Since then a variety if clubs have chased the Cameroon striker in an attempt to sign him. A move back to Italy looked the more likely option until Ajax came calling and negotiations began around a move to Holland. However in a bizarre twist, Eto’o has turned down the chance to play for Frank De Boers team and instead is holding out for a move back to England with either Liverpool or Everton. Both Merseyside clubs have expressed interest in the past but Eto’os wage demands are proving to be a major stumbling block.
The Money Man – Samuel Eto’o
(Image from Getty)
Now Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has appeared to have switched his focus from Eto’o to Mario Balotelli with the fiery Italians agent arriving today for contractual negotiations. Balotelli seems set on the move after posting on Twitter yesterday that it was his last day at Milan effectively confirming his transfer to Liverpool. All being well, the 24-year-old could be unveiled as a Liverpool player as early as Friday. The transfer is likely to split opinion amongst the Liverpool fans, some of which will be happy with signing a player of the calibre of Balotelli, a man clearly able to fill the boots of the departed Luis Suarez. The other half however will be concerned about the potential for a repeat of his off field behaviour seen during his last stay in England with Manchester City. The self-confessed bad boy had various run ins with then City boss Roberto Mancini, with the final straw coming during a training ground bust up with the manager. Balotelli was shipped out of England and back to Italy with Milan fairly quickly after that event. A return to the Premiership should give the Italian striker a chance of redemption with the leagues most improved team from last season.
Liverpool Bound? Mario Balotelli
(Image from Getty)
If Balotelli’s transfer does go through then Liverpool will likely give up on any move for Eto’o leaving neighbours Everton as the only remaining club that has expressed interest. However since enquiring about Eto’os desire to move to Everton, the Toffees have completed the signing of Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea for a club record £28m. Manager Roberto Martinez made his move for the powerful front man after Lukaku impressed during a loan spell at Everton last season. Deemed surplus to requirements at Chelsea following the signing of Spanish striker Diego Costa, Lukaku jumped at the chance to get regular first team football so is unlikely to be happy if Everton were to bring in Eto’o. Whether Everton need the Cameroon skipper is another valid question with a wealth of options upfront for Martinez to choose from. Besides Lukaku, Everton has Scotland international Steven Naismith, Belgian Kevin Miralles and Ivorian Arouna Koné whilst the emergence of youngster Chris Long during pre season has given the Spaniard more food for thought. Other clubs have been rumoured to be interested such as West Ham, West Brom and Sunderland but none of these could realistically afford his wage demands without fracturing their existing wage structures. Eto’o is still a fantastic striker and could offer a lot to a club but too many years living on ludicrous wages may have reduced his options somewhat. It may be that his Premiership dream is now dead and that he needs to look elsewhere to continue his career, finding a club that is willing to pay above and beyond for a 33-year-old front man with nothing to prove.
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