As Joni Mitchell once sang, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. Everton fans will undoubtedly be feeling that this week.
It wasn’t a Big Yellow Taxi that whisked Idrissa Gana Gueye off to Paris Saint-Germain this summer but a private jet and the promise of greater things, particularly Champions League football.
This week saw him make his debut in the competition, and it’s fair to say he took the opportunity and did not look backwards, and describing the Senegal midfielder as PSG’s best player in the comprehensive 3-0 win over Real Madrid is no exaggeration.
Gueye was the star of the show, dominating the midfield with the kind of performance even he wouldn’t have considered possible when he sat dreaming of Champions League football during the summer transfer window.
It was a display that earned him plenty of plaudits.
PSG boss Thomas Tuchel described him as ‘a machine’ in his post-match press conference, while teammates Marco Verratti, Juan Bernat and Thiago Silva were equally effusive about the midfielder, the latter describing him as ‘amazing’.
Likewise, the press did not hold back on their praise for his performance. Le Monde described Gueye as the man who ‘muzzled’ Real Madrid, while RTL questioned if the Senegal midfielder was ‘the missing link’ PSG have long been looking for.
Throughout all the praise, there was a continued tone of surprise, as PSG’s superstars, fans and journalists were not expecting him to be this good, but they have quickly had their presumptions blown away.
We liked you before it was cool 🙁
— Carlos (@_EFCCarlos_) September 18, 2019
Everton fans, however, watched on knowingly. One was quick to remind Gueye they ‘loved him before he was cool’ on Twitter, a message the midfielder replied to in his usual classy fashion.
Everton fans do not need to watch Gueye dominating Madrid in the Champions League to know he’s world-class. They’ve known it from the first moment he stepped out at Goodison Park and put in a similar, all-action performance in a draw with Tottenham. They continued to trumpet his cause while the rest of the Premier League ignored the midfielder dominating the stats.
The fact the rest of the world have now caught up elicited a roll of the eyes. As the one fan said, they were on the bandwagon long before it became popular, but even on some level, Gueye was still often under-appreciated on Merseyside.
Few debated his defensive ability or the energy and professionalism he brings to the team. It was his passing many felt stopped him being capable of being an elite defensive midfielder. They would argue it was that part of his game that stopped him matching N’Golo Kanté.
Play him alongside better players at PSG, though, and that was no longer an issue. Gueye finished the game with a 93% pass success rate, more passes in the final third than any other player as well as topping the charts in key passes.
One excellent performance does not make the sale a disastrous one for Everton, but they will be rueful about letting him go.
They will kick themselves not fighting harder to keep him, and they will regret not holding out for a much bigger fee.
In light of this performance, £27m looks an absolute bargain, although hindsight is playing some part there.
They will undoubtedly rue their inability to match his ambitions or pair him with the kind of midfielder that would have brought the best out of him.
Of course, time will help to heal the wound, and there is every chance Jean Philippe-Gbamin, the man brought in to replace Gueye, will help to fill the void he has left behind, and there were plenty of positive signs before his untimely tendon injury two games into his Everton career.
Until then they will have to watch Gueye flourish in France. He’s now shining brighter elsewhere, demonstrating his talents on the global scale while Everton wonder what might have been.
As the aforementioned song says, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. And Gueye’s performance in midweek will have reminded Everton, in a heartrending and public manner, that they had something very special in the Senegalese midfielder.