Everton are targetting Marseille winger Lucas Ocampos this summer, according to reports.
The 24-year-old Argentine has been one of the focal points to Rudi Garcia’s attack this season, notching four goals and six assists in Ligue 1 as Les Phocéens sit sixth in the table but with his contract expiring in 2020, the club could look to cash in on Ocampos while they still can.
Much of the talk among Everton fans right now is about whether or not they can secure a striker to solve their problems up top, with current options Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Cenk Tosun scoring just six and two Premier League goals, respectively, this season.
The former has put in some stellar performances in recent weeks but two goals and one assist in his last 15 outings across all competitions is simply not good enough.
However, while a striker is necessary, so is the supply line to the marksmen. Gylfi Sigurdsson has 13 goals and five assists this season and is Everton’s top provider, while Richarlison also has 13 strikes but just one assist.
These two have shouldered much of the burden placed upon them to deliver in the attacking third for Everton this season. However, Marco Silva’s attacking force needs the balance redressing if he is to truly succeed at Goodison Park.
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If Richarlison is to be the man sneaking in at the back post, or driving at defenders like a true inside forward, then Everton need a different option on the other wing. A guy who will get full-backs one-on-one and race them to the byline before delivering a cross, or check inside to open space for the likes of Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne to overlap.
Ocampos would be the perfect candidate. With Everton reportedly interested, no player has completed more dribbles (57) for Marseille in Ligue 1 this season than him – Everton’s most successful dribbler in this season’s Premier League is midfield Andre Gomes (40) – while he only sits behind Florian Thauvin and Dimitri Payet (both on seven) in big chances created (six) so far. In fact, in Ocampos’ last five games, he has provided four assists directly for Marseille’s main goalscorer, Mario Balotelli.
“I have good relations with everyone but it’s true, even more with Lucas (Ocampos) who has a good game, he knows how to center from a distance. I know (that) and I managed to score because he made a perfect cross, the goal was easier than the pass.”
But Ocampos isn’t simply a lightweight winger who would likely be kicked out of the game in the Premier League. Far from it. The Argentina youth international is well in touch with his dark side and is by no means afraid to use it.
Sat on 76, no Marseille player has out-tackled him this season, while Ocampos has received the most yellow cards (11) at the club in Ligue 1 this term. The former Monaco man is robust and ready to take on whatever the opposition throws at him, but is not afraid to partake in a little skullduggery should his team require it, winning a club-high 58 fouls in Ligue 1 during 2018/19.
Everton fans are hugely appreciative of good, free-flowing, attacking football. They love to see their team on the front foot, going forward. However, they can forgive almost any and all failures on the pitch if they see a player running his proverbials off for the team. Aaron Lennon was never much of a success at Goodison Park but felt the love of the Gwladys Street because he gave a hoot, chasing down every single lost cause.
The same goes for Calvert-Lewin right now. Does he possess Roberto Firmino’s touch when dropping deep? No. Is he a cold-blooded finisher in the same vein as Harry Kane? Definitely not. However, the Toffees won’t turn on him in a hurry because he would run through a brick wall for the club.
And in Ocampos, that is exactly what they will be getting and much more. The elegance and pizzazz of a Jedi Master, coupled with the intense anger and absolute will to succeed of the most fearsome Sith Lord.
If Ocampos can bring balance to Silva’s team, with a threat on both sides of the pitch, a few of this season’s ‘big six’ stragglers may just nervously look over their shoulders at Everton next season.