Long Reads

Allan: Who is Everton’s New Signing?

Whilst Everton’s signing of James Rodriguez gets all of the attention it deserves, their capture of Allan has seemingly gone down a little more quietly. But, don’t be surprised if Everton’s newest Brazilian will play an even more significant role in the club’s season. The central midfielder has been linked with PSG, Juventus, Inter Milan and Tottenham in recent times. So how have Everton landed their man, and what exactly will he bring to Merseyside.

Inscripted on the walls of Vasco da Gama’s Estádio São Januário stadium is the line, “as long as there is a young heart, Vasco will always be immortal.” These were the words of Vasco’s president, Cyro Aranha from the 1940’s, but they have resonated with Vasco’s players ever since.

At 19, Allan played a key role in Vasco’s promotion to the Brazilian Serie A. Injuries in the following season stunted his progression. Although he got back on track in 2011, winning the under-20 World Cup with Brazil.

In the summer of 2012, the midfielder made the move to the north-east of Italy to join Udinese. A club that made its reputation off finding young South American talent.

Allan was a revelation in Italy. Tasked with breaking up the play and quickly offloading the ball, the Brazilian struck up a solid partnership in defensive midfield with Giampiero Pinzi. In his first year he made the most tackles in the team per 90 (4.3) and the most passes (48.1). Allan’s significance to Udinese was rubber-stamped by the club’s 5th place finish.

Going forward, Udinese struggled to match the heights of that campaign, but Allan continued to excel. In the 2014/15 season, he won more balls than any other player in Europe. In particular, his performance against Juventus in February 2015 caught the eye of Europe’s top clubs. Allan marked Paul Pogba out of the game, and nullified Juventus’ attacking threat throughout the match. La Repubblica awarded the midfielder Man of the Match, and Udinese’s manager, Andrea Stramaccioni heralded the Brazilian as: “one of the best midfielders in Europe.”

Unsurprisingly, Allan was soon signed up by a bigger club. He joined Napoli for £10.3m in the summer of 2015.

At Napoli, Maurizio Sarri created the perfect midfield three, with Allan, Jorginho and Hamsik. The Brazilian’s role was to provide further energy in the midfield, destroy opposition attacks and quickly recycle the ball to his midfield partners. His first season in Napoli was a huge success. ‘Gli Azzuri’ narrowly missed out on the Scudetto, finishing 2nd to Juventus. The majority of the praise was lauded on Napoli’s attacking talent. Yet, Allan finished the campaign with the 2nd most successful tackles in Serie A (109). It’s no coincidence that Napoli conceded 22 goals more in the season prior – when Allan was not at the club.

Considering that Allan is joining Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton. It will be most profitable to analyse the Brazilian’s time in the 2018/19 season – the one full season that Allan and Ancelotti have worked together.

Interestingly, Ancelotti favoured the 4-4-2 formation, the same system that he has largely deployed at Everton.

Allan was commonly used in a deep-lying central midfield pivot with Spaniard Fabian Ruiz. Ancelotti certainly got the most out of him. Out of all Serie A players who clocked over 900 minutes, Allan won the most tackles per 90 (3.16).

As was seen throughout last season, Everton lacked steel in midfield. Ancelotti’s craving for a ball-winning midfielder can be outlined by the fact that Sigurdsson won the most tackles per 90 out of all Everton’s midfielders. Yet he still only managed 1.48 tackles per 90 – half that of Allan’s figure from the 2018/19 season.

Similarly, Allan performs well at applying pressure to the opposition. In 2018/19, he made 32.3 pressures per 90 – the most of anyone in Serie A. Even more impressively, the Brazilian was successful in 9.07% of his pressures, which was the third highest rate of successful pressures for Serie A players who played over 900 minutes. Undoubtedly, Allan has fine-tuned when and when not to press the opposition, thanks to years of experience playing in his role.

But to label Allan merely as a destroyer would be doing a disservice to his ability on the ball. Under Ancelotti, he completed 9.18 passes into the final third per 90, only Marcelo Brozovic completed more in Serie A. One of the problems with Everton last season was their lackadaisical build-up play through midfield. Andre Gomes made the most passes into the final third out of any Everton midfielder per 90, but his figure of 5.68 is still dwarfed by Allan’s total.

The worry for Everton fans will be if Allan can translate his performances for Ancelotti in Italy to the England. In Serie A, the midfielders often have more time on the ball, allowing them to pick their pass with greater ease. For example, take Lucas Torreira, a player in a similar mould to Allan, who excelled in Serie A for Sampdoria. In the 2017/18 season, Torreira managed 5.75 successful final third passes per 90. In contrast, in the Premier League last season he completed 2.68 final third passes per 90. Out of the two, Allan seems to be the stronger passer, but the way in which Torreira’s passing has failed to flourish in England, could replicate itself onto Allan’s time in Merseyside.

Another potential drawback of this signing is Allan’s height. Although it may seem like an arbitrary point, the Brazilian’s 5’7 frame may be something that opposition teams play off. In the 2018/19 season he won just 33% of his aerial duels.

Despite this, it is not imperative for someone in Allan’s position to tower over their opponent.

Overall, it looks like Everton are getting one of Europe’s best holding midfielders from the last 5 years. So how did a club that finished 12th in the Premier League last season, manage to sign a player that has previously been linked with PSG, Inter Milan and Juventus.

Over the last season, the relationship between Allan and Napoli has become fractured. In November, the midfielder was furious after club president Aurelio di Laurentiis fined him and Lorenzo Insigne 50% of their monthly wages. This was following a player protest, which ensued when de Laurentiis imposed a training camp on the squad.

Even the new manager, Gennaro Gattuso could not patch up relations with Allan. In February he left the midfielder out against Cagliari, when asked why, Gattuso simply said: “because he walked in training.”

Considering that Allan made only 23 Serie A appearances last season, it can be no surprise that his time in Naples is up.

For Napoli, this would most likely have been the last transfer window, where they could have expected to receive decent money for their asset. Allan turns 30 in January, meaning his value will only depreciate. So the chance to sell him for a decent fee couldn’t be refused.

Just because the transfer represents good business for the selling-club, doesn’t mean that Everton are being fooled into buying a second-rate midfielder. In fact, Allan will offer Everton something that they dearly missed last season, following the injury to Jean-Philippe Gbamin.

With Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez also on their way to Everton, Ancelotti will have a selection headache over who to start next season.

No matter how many midfielders Everton have next season, Allan will be the one commanding the midfield, so long as he plays with the same ‘young heart’ that has earned him plaudits so far in his career.