Brother to a double high jump world champion and Olympic medallist, it’s fair to say sport and competition runs in the Vlasic family.
Nikola Vlasic has done his level best to step out of his famous sister Blanka’s shadow and make a name for himself in football. How about a winner against then triple reigning champions of Europe, Real Madrid, on your Champions League home debut for starters?
That’s what Vlasic did during an impressive season on loan in the Russian Premier League with CSKA Moscow from Everton. He scored or assisted a goal on average every other game last season, yet the Toffees offloaded him permanently despite the obvious promise showed.
How prophetic it was then, when in January a candid Vlasic predicted this. “I expect them to sell me as soon as they get their first bid,” he is quoted by the BBC from a wide-ranging interview for a newspaper in his homeland Croatia that also lambasted Everton’s playing style under Sam Allardyce.
Vlasic felt high-profile transfers from Barcelona with Toffees boss Marco Silva pulling off the coup captures of Yerry Mina, Lucas Digne and Andre Gomes meant the writing was on the wall.
“It’s clear you do not have much care for those who came from the small league,” he added with some self-deprecation after seeing those arrivals at Goodison Park. Everton did not disappoint Vlasic, but have they been hasty in selling him to CKSA for around just £4,000,000 profit?
Being so outspoken is on one level quite refreshing, but on another can be seen by fans and the club as disrespectful. Whatever your take on Vlasic’s comments, consider this; for all the squad Silva has at his disposal, how much strength-in-depth is there in attacking midfield?
Everton have plenty of wingers and forwards and deeper lying operators for the engine room, but only Gylfi Sigurdsson as a true number 10. The Iceland international apart, just one other midfielder – recent permanent acquisition Gomes – scored a goal last season.
Sigurdsson is a proven Premier League performer, but turns 30 in September. While he is far from on the wane and comes into the new campaign off the back of his best-ever scoring season, other senior players left Goodison at the end of their contracts this summer.
Midfield is the one area of Silva’s roster where he is over-reliant upon one player. This is why the Toffees are odds-on to record yet another top 10 Premier League finish in the latest online betting with 888Sport, but a relatively large 9/2 to crash the top six as they regularly did under David Moyes.
Where is Sigurdsson’s competition? If his fine form doesn’t reach the heights of last season, it will surely impact Everton badly. Kieran Dowell has done well in loan spells with Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United, but it’s a big ask to step up on his Championship exploits in the eventuality.
All this while Vlasic scored three of CSKA Moscow’s Champions League group stage goals last term and struck twice at the UEFA Under-21 European Championship this summer. He played 90 minutes just three times for Everton in the Premier League and was involved in just 19 games across all competitions.
Like Mo Salah and Kevin De Bruyne, who as youngsters didn’t get a look-in at Chelsea, Vlasic has the potential to be one that comes back to haunt the Toffees one day.
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