Everton’s young Spanish winger Gerard Deulofeu is a puzzle wrapped in a mystery.
He is supremely talented with the ball and can do things that a lot of footballers can only dream of, yet his character and immaturity often override that undoubted ability.
Throughout his career from youth to senior football Deulofeu has been regarded as a special talent by his coaches and bosses.
However there always seems to be a pause when former bosses are asked about the youngster when it comes to his character and mental attributes.
Sevilla boss Unai Emery took him on loan from Barcelona to Andalucía and was excited by talent, but bemused by his attitude and behaviour. Deulofeu’s appearances for Sevilla were limited, yet he still managed more assists per-minute than any of his teammates.
In fact only Barcelona’s Luis Suarez produced assists in La Liga on a more frequent basis than Deulofeu last season.
His immaturity was on display in Everton’s 2-1 defeat at Arsenal last weekend, as he threw himself to the floor after a challenge from Nacho Monreal. Replays showed that his compatriot had not touched the winger.
Deulofeu reacted angrily to not getting the free-kick, despite the fact there was no sign of contact. Everybody should have been talking about the good things he did for Everton and the fact he looked like the most likely player to unlock the Arsenal defence.
Instead people are talking about the fact that he attempted to cheat to gain an advantage. Diving is not a new thing in football, but English football has a low threshold for it now and Deulofeu was probably lucky not to be booked.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez has handled Deulofeu carefully this season, handing the 21-year-old just three Premier League starts. The former-Barcelona star is undoubtedly a luxury player and undoubtedly a match-winner.
Martinez defended the youngster after the Arsenal defeat saying: “Gerard is a young man who has come into a very different game and he needs to understand the culture of the British game,”
“Gerard has incredible talent, he worries defenders and you could see at the end they had three players around him. He carries that threat. He is a young player and he has a lot to learn but he has the desire and that winning mentality and it’s only a matter of time before he puts that talent together.”
His defensive contribution is less impressive than the attacking threat he offers. Only striker Romelu Lukaku has produced less tackles for Everton this season and he has to improve that side of his game if he is to make at the top level.
For all the doubts about his mental attributes, Deulofeu has proven already this season that he can be a potent attacking threat. Only Manchester City playmaker and compatriot David Silva has produced more assists per-minute than Deulofeu in the Premier League.
That is quite an impressive statistic that the youngster needs to build on. Everybody knows he has the technical ability and now he has to find the right mental attitude to make himself a success.
He stated that he felt like he was coming home when he arrived from Barcelona in the summer for a fee of around £4.25million. Deulofeu knows he is better than most of the other players on the field when it comes to technical ability.
Maybe a touch of humility is what is needed to fulfil his immense potential, because at the moment he is a young player that could fail or succeed in the game, despite his immense ability with a football.
Next up for Everton and Deulofeu is a home game against Sunderland on Sunday, which the Toffees are favourites to win at odds of 4/9. This is the sort of game that the Toffees need Deulofeu to be at his best. The Black Cats are likely to come to Goodison Park and sit deep.
This is where Deulofeu’s ability to create something out of nothing will be invaluable. The Toffees have been on a poor run of form of late. Now is the time for Gerard Deulofeu to grow up and repay the faith that everybody at Everton has shown in him.
Can Gerard Deulofeu fulfil his potential at Everton?