Given how highly rated Gerard Deulofeu was when he rose through the ranks at Barcelona, at the time, some may have been surprised they ever let him go.
After years away from the club and unable to even break into Everton’s starting XI, some may question why they want him back.
The Catalan club exercised their right to buy back the winger merely hours before the clause was due to expire, paying 12m for the privilege to do so.
Now 23, Deulofeu left Spain in search of regular, first-team football and consequently improve his game. It can be argued he has failed to significantly impact upon either aim.
One of Deulofeu’s most noted flaws is his inconsistency. Commonplace for burgeoning young players, but it’s particularly evident in his game due to how troublesome he can be at the top of his game.
His blistering pace and quick feet can put even the most assured full-backs under duress, but his decision-making and selfishness has been known to frustrate and infuriate ad nauseam.
For such a reason, the player is lauded and derided in equal measure. Speak to an Everton or Sevilla fan, and what they say about his spells with each club may be less than complementary.
During his loan spell with Sevilla, Unai Emery gushed about the 23-year-old’s dazzling individual quality but questioned his work ethic and maturity.
Deulofeu looked like the increasingly-common, over-hyped Barca attacker fizzling out after bundles of promise. But he flipped the script in Italy last season at Milan.
Only teammate Suso created more chances than Deulofeu’s 43 in Serie A. An impressive stat made all the more stunning, considering he only joined in January.
hat flash of promise may have proved sufficient in convincing Barca take another gamble on the Spain U21 captain, much to the chagrin of Rossonero.
Moreover, he’s a La Masia graduate (which satisfies the Champions League’s homegrown quota), who can fill out the squad relatively well. The Spaniard still has suitors, though, and could yield a profit after a decent season. Either way, the deal makes sense for Barca.
Whether it does for Deulofeu and his continued development is a different question. One he most likely already knows the answer to.
As confident a player as he is, he should know barring a change in formation, the idea he can displace any one of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez or Neymar Jr from the starting XI any time soon is laughable.
Yet he came back, almost willing letting his career stagnate for a season or two. Given that the prize is a chance to play for the club he joined at nine years of age, it is understandable.
But a good six months in Italy doesn’t gloss over the weaknesses in his game. He needs consistent, quality opposition.
There can still be scope for growth and learning back at the club he learned his trade. Though Barca’s front three all have the ability to win matches on their own through sheer ability and craft, they choose to play selflessly.
This solo act on the pitch has got him this far, but it may not be tolerated too much longer and he will have to adapt.
It may see him become a useful member of the squad or sellable asset, but nothing more. His return is brilliant business for Barca – but damaging for Deulofeu.