Ronald Koeman was a fan favourite at Barcelona. That was no less down to the fact that the fans at the very top tier of the rather steep, Nou Camp, were able to spot him unmistakably, and clearly, while other players, at a distance looked like glorified Blaugrana dots kicking around a smaller dot around. Years have passed since, his name is mentioned in passing at pub quizzes in England; and over a gathering of middle-aged paella panderers, in Spain. Now, 21 years and roughly 1,860 kilometers away, the dreamboat Dutchman is making his presence felt – but not in the same delightful manner as he did amongst the Barca faithful. No, not at all. In fact, you may find some of the newer fans even offering impolite Catalan curse words at his general north-western direction. With good reason, as well, as Everton look primed to bag one of Barcelona’s most prized youth prospect.
The Sport, the Barcelona-based publication are adamant and somewhat irked by the fact that Munir El Haddadi may be on his way out, and Koeman’s Everton may be his escape route. Tottenham are vying for the signature as well, but the London club’s reluctance to put in a buy-back clause has put the Merseyside dark-horses in front. Munir, who despite being more than good enough, will understandably, will see his starting opportunities dwindle after the return of Neymar from his Olympic gold-winning campaign, and is looking for a quick resolution – and The Blues have been the first one on call with his parent club, who are signed to losing him for a bargain price of €15m.
The 4th Official investigates the high ceiling of the prospect from Koeman’s former club, offers its two pence on why this boy could be a special, special talent. Who, by the virtue of the Catalan club and media distancing him from the spotlight and comparisons to Leo Messi, has inevitably seen him compared to Leo Messi. Gorgeous bit of irony, there.
Always primed on the front-foot, he’s a fleet-footed trickster prowling in the channels for a through ball to out-spring the offside trap, Munir plies his pace and anticipation, and ability on the ball to full effect. His technical ability is underlined by his versatility, which allows him to fashion chances all across the front three – left flank, centre, or the right, he seems unfazed by the duplicity that his free role demands, in the club’s template of a 4-3-3 formation.
His eye for the clinical finish and movement has seen him often deployed through the middle as a false 9 – something that Koeman tried to coax out of Barkley vs Tottenham, at Goodison Park, with decent effect.
His reputation as a workhorse has put him in good stead at La Masia and is someone who will graft drawing from his bountiful energy to close down space for his team without the ball – a welcome trait to have in the Premier League.
Standing at 5’9”, his effectiveness playing as a false nine will see a downturn in his initial days in the hustle of the Premier League – while he has bolstered his physique since his debut, there will be doubts on whether he has garnered enough core strength to shield the ball from 6’3’ defenders that throng the English game.
His passes are sometimes often venturesome, which would be fine considering the talent on the end of those passes are some of the best in the world – he’ll need to tone down such passes and form an understanding of the limitations of the players around him at Everton, and would need to hold onto the ball better.
Sure of his natural abilities on the ball, he often backs himself in situations where he could be better of squaring an easy pass, instead of charging through and taking on an entire backline.
Ronald Koeman, in his time at Barcelona, Ajax, Feyenoord, and PSV was considered as one of the most effective enablers of youth in Europe. Under his wing, Munir will equip himself with the tactical nous without the ball, and a better understanding of it. While still frail, he may need the sufficient time to settle in before he can bedazzle and make the turnstiles at the Goodison tick.