‘Fast, strong’ Yannick Bolasie’s present meets his past when Everton take on Crystal Palace
His career trajectory is unlikely as some of his solo runs. At 19 and 20, the ages when others were marking themselves out as future greats, Yannick Bolasie was being loaned to Rushden & Diamonds and then Barnet.
Fast-forward a few years and the specialist of the unpredictable is the second most expensive player ever bought by Everton, the club with the fourth most league titles in English football history.
He also brought Crystal Palace their greatest windfall. As his present and past employers meet on Friday, it comes with the probability that Bolasie will influence the outcome.
Perhaps it will be directly, a blur of stepovers leading him to goal or, at least, to pick out a player who finds the net.
Or maybe it will be indirectly: his sale allowed Palace to fund their club record buy of Christian Benteke. His direct replacement Andros Townsend arrived before Bolasie left, but for around half the cost.
A similarly quick dribbler shares the potential to decide the game.
A Palace win would take them level on points with Everton, which would challenge the notion that Bolasie traded up in swapping Selhurst Park for Goodison Park. At the least, he suggested this week, it is an education. “Learning from a manager like Ronald Koeman is totally different to what I’ve had in the past,” he told the Liverpool Echo.
“The Dutch way of playing, the Dutch way of doing everything is totally different to what I’ve had.”
While Bolasie is a Congolese international, his five Palace managers were all Brits. A different school of thought brings different demands.
Everton are a team who expect to have more possession. The burden is often on them to break opponents down, especially at Goodison Park. Hence, perhaps the importance of a wild card.
“Yannick is the type of winger I like – fast, strong and he can play different positions in the forward line,” said Koeman when signing Bolasie.
Long-limbed, quick, capable of confounding opponents and teammates alike, Bolasie is a natural subject for YouTube compilations, an entertainer with juggling skills, a sprinter who claimed he once beat Usain Bolt in a sprint.
The feints, the tricks, the flicks: they all make him a highlights player.
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It means he stands out in a recruitment drive where reliability was otherwise prioritised.
Koeman has imported experience in his summer spending, with goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg 34 and defender Ashley Williams 32.
At the age of 27 and costing £25 million (Dh119.3m), perhaps Bolasie should also represent the finished article. If a late developer does not, it is because he is not a finisher.
Koeman’s most pertinent comment came last month. “He needs to improve in his productivity,” he said. “Nine goals in three Premier League seasons is too little.”
Palace can echo that. Bolasie scored an 11-minute hat-trick at Sunderland for them 17 months ago but his time at Selhurst Park yielded just 13 goals in 144 games.
He is yet to get off the mark for Everton, though he has at least recorded assists in the wins over Sunderland and Middlesbrough.
Both were for goals scored by Romelu Lukaku. Everton must hope it is the start of a profitable alliance.
Certainly after deflating defeats to Norwich City, in the League Cup, and Bournemouth in the league last weekend, they could do with a response. Their star has waned as Palace’s has risen.
Perhaps mediocre league form in 2016 prompted him to leave, but a team who deal in peaks and troughs of form have now recorded three successive league wins, garnished by nine goals.
Life after Bolasie is going swimmingly for them. But now an idiosyncratic player has an opportunity to remind them what they are missing.
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Published: September 29, 2016 04:00 AM