Everton have snapped up Burnley attacking midfielder Dwight McNeil on Thursday (28 July), concluding a five-year deal worth around £20million for the 22-year-old.
McNeil has left Turf Moor following Burnley’s drop to the Championship at the end of 2021-22, following the likes of James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Nathan Collins and Wout Weghorst out of the club.
The former England under-21 international becomes the Toffees’ third signing of the summer following the arrivals of former teammate Tarkowski and Rúben Vinagre from Sporting Lisbon on a season-long loan.
Once reportedly admired by Guardiola
Everton narrowly missed out on relegation last term, finishing two places and four points above the drop zone, and manager Frank Lampard knows adding quality players to his squad is very crucial.
The departure of Brazilian forward Richarlison to Tottenham Hotspur comes as a huge blow, and while McNeil is not exactly a like-for-like replacement, the Englishman has everything it takes to help the Goodison Park outfit challenge for a place in the first half of the Premier League table in 2022-23.
The former Manchester United schoolboy only had a hand in one league goal last term despite making 38 appearances, and while that pales in comparison with Richarlison’s return of 10 goals and five assists in 30 league games, that he was once reportedly targeted by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola speaks volumes.
The Spaniard was said to be interested in bringing McNeil to the Etihad Stadium back in the summer of 2020 as a replacement for Leroy Sane.
The Man City boss reckoned the Rochdale-born youngster had the potential to become a leading player and one who possesses the athleticism and versatility to thrive at the club, and Everton could be the one to eventually gain from his development.
Prior to last season, McNeil scored seven goals and weighed in with 16 assists in 95 top-flight games for the Clarets, and with making Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad later this year set to serve as extra motivation, the Blues could see the best of the attacker when the season starts.
Apart from his attacking abilities, Lampard will also be getting a hard worker off the ball in his new addition.
McNeil won more possession (34) in the attacking third than any player in the Premier League last season, and Everton could do with such a player without an iota of doubt.
He completed more dribbles (90), made more crosses (199) and created more chances (40) than any other Burnley player last term, and although the jury is still out on whether he can truly establish himself as a top-flight star, the £20million spent on him could end up becoming a bargain should he manage to fulfil his huge potential.
Lampard’s side will have to hit the ground running in the new season in order to prevent a repeat of last campaign’s struggles, and while it remains to be seen whether any more arrivals are expected, the addition of the former Burnley star is a solid boost.
Everton kicked off pre-season preparations with humbling defeats at the hands of Arsenal and MLS outfit Minnesota United, but they have since bounced back with a win over Blackpool.
They host Chelsea in the opening weekend of the campaign, and should McNeil and others impress, a win against Thomas Tuchel’s side could be on the cards.