Deulofeu quick to learn ropes
Catalan star's immediate impact at Everton impressing his manager, writes Paul Wilson
ALL but lost in the excitement of Everton not only winning at Manchester United for the first time in more than 20 years but having a left-back in the opposition penalty area in the 86th minute looking to score a goal, was the consideration that Roberto Martinez outsmarted David Moyes in the transfer window as well as on the Old Trafford pitch.
From Everton's point of view, £27m for Marouane Fellaini looks a better piece of business every time the Belgian pulls on a United shirt, while it was easy to forget, watching the impressive contributions of Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry and James McCarthy, that all three only fetched up on Merseyside in the closing hours of the last day of summer trading.
Even Gerard Deulofeu looked good when he came on as substitute, as he has done on each occasion Martinez has permitted him match time this season, and though taking the 19-year-old on a season's loan from Barcelona is not quite the audacious coup Arsenal pulled off with Cesc Fabregas, it does show Arsene Wenger is not the only manager keeping a close watch on junior developments in La Liga.
Martinez believes Fabregas returned to Spain a better player for his years in England, and feels Deulofeu is looking to do the same. "I'm sure Gerard's decision to come to England had something to do with the examples set by Fabregas and Gerard Pique," the Everton manager said.
"They got an education in the British game and went back better players. There were other top European clubs in for Gerard, as well as others in La Liga, but the player and his club chose Everton. They thought he would benefit not just from a different football experience but a different lifestyle away from the pitch and that really helped us.
"I was very pleased Barcelona trusted us with his development. I have been following his career in Barcelona's B side since he made his debut against Real Madrid at the age of 16. That caught my eye, and from that point on it was a matter of pestering Barcelona and being clear about what we could offer."
Deulofeu played a significant part in Everton's recovery in the Merseyside derby last month, after being sent on as substitute in a typically attacking response to the loss of Leighton Baines halfway through the game, then scored his first goal for the club in the next match against Stoke.
"He has already exceeded my expectations," Martinez explained. "I thought he would need until at least January to be ready for the English league, so he is well ahead of schedule."
The English league, of course, is normally considered inferior to the Spanish product, at least at the level occupied by Barcelona, though Martinez knew better than to pitch his young acquisition into action straight away. "I know Spanish culture and Spanish football really well, and I knew Gerard would need time to adapt," he said. "The game is played slightly differently here, and all the time on the training pitch I was watching how Gerard reacted when he lost the ball, how quickly he looked to the referee for protection.
"Young players growing up in Spain expect that from referees, and receive it, whereas it is something you are not going to get in the British game because we allow a bit more contact. In the British game a tackle is appreciated just as much as a one-on-one situation, and that can come as a bit of a shock to a player from Spain. In Spain you would never get a clap or a cheer for a tackle, never.
"So in Gerard's first month, his first instinct when losing the ball would be to look to the referee. Once he realised that wasn't going to work, and began to react to losing the ball by trying to get it back, that showed me he was nearly ready.
"Once used to the British style, foreigners tend to enjoy it because it works both ways, it makes the game more interesting. The first thing they tell you in Spain is that you need to be more clever than the opposition and the referee, and if you win a penalty that's well played. When you come here you quickly realise the approach is not the same. People don't want to see players rolling over and trying to get opponents booked.
"You learn the game is not all about trying to get decisions from the referee. It's a culture thing, I think. The Mediterranean culture is all about trying to gain something, it doesn't matter how. In Britain, it is more about wanting to achieve things in a fair way." Observer