NEW ERA: People are starting to pay attention to the new-look Everton.

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By Matt Jones

Players who have honed their craft at Barcelona’s La Masia academy are forever tied to the Catalan club. It’s a reason why so many who don’t make the step up from the youth setup to the first team struggle to have a huge impact elsewhere.

After all, having been refined and developed to operate in a unique Barcelona way, having the dream dashed of donning the Blaugrana jersey regularly for years to come must be galling. World football is littered with these types of players; Everton have had one themselves in Gerard Deulofeu.

But Sandro Ramirez hasn’t let his Barcelona rejection bring his career to a halt. After being released by the Camp Nou club, he was snapped up by Malaga and handed an important role in the team. The 21-year-old has relished that responsibility and finished the La Liga campaign just gone with 14 goals from 30 appearances.

Sandro was the team’s star and given Malaga endured a campaign of inconsistency on and off the pitch, he now looks primed to depart. On the final day of the 2016-17 season, he waved farewell to the supporters, with manager Michel admitting that while the club would love to keep him, it’s almost certain he’ll move on.

Everton are one of the teams said to have been impressed by the youngster’s stellar campaign. Here’s the lowdown on what he would potentially bring to Goodison Park.

Where has he been linked to Everton?

Various reports have tied Everton with the Malaga forward, including Ed Malyon of The Independent. Ronald Koeman was also snapped at Balaidos watching Malaga take on Celta Vigo recently, then with the player’s representative after the game.

Additionally, it’s suggested Sandro has a buyout clause amounting to £5.1 million in his current contract.

Is anyone else in the hunt?

Malyon has also suggested that Atletico Madrid have been admirers of the ex-Barcelona man, although the decision to uphold their transfer ban complicates that prospect. Sevilla have also been mentioned as suitors.

Tottenham Hotspur were also said to be looking at the 21-year-old last summer, as were Arsenal.

Where does he play?

According to WhoScored, Sandro started all of his 28 La Liga games in 2016-17 at the point of the Malaga attack. However, during his time at Barcelona the youngster was deployed on either flank and at La Rosaleda, he has frequently floated into wide positions.

Despite having left Las Palmas as a 14-year-old to be schooled in the Barcelona mantras, Sandro isn’t what you’d consider a quintessential La Masia graduate.

As aforementioned, Sandro is pretty fluid in his movement; adept at running in behind, dropping off the last line of defence and ambling into wide berths. In handing the starlet such freedom, Michel has drawn the best from him.

On the ball his first thought is always positive. Sandro is consistently looking to drive forward in possession and push defences back. His strong running, eye for a pass and willingness to pull the trigger from distance give opponents difficult decisions to make throughout a match; only Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann scored more from outside the penalty area in La Liga last season.

Positionally he’s developed too. Sandro does have a spatial awareness you see from so many Barcelona tyros, as he’s consistently carving out room for himself in the final third.

In terms of his attacking output, more impressive facets have emerged in line with a more significant role at Malaga, most notably his set-piece proficiency. Needless to say, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar around, Sandro rarely got a look in in dead-ball situations at the Camp Nou.

With the Costa del Sol club he assumed free-kick duties and blossomed, conjuring some stunning strikes from range.

Crucially for the Toffees, he’s dynamic too. Sandro is blessed with the pace needed to stretch defences and when Malaga have sought to press the opposition this season, the Spain youth international has so often been the man to trigger it.

Where can he improve?

In his consistency, mainly. Sandro finished the season in particularly strong form for Malaga, as the team turned a corner as a collective. The forward’s own standards tended to fluctuate with them, scoring his goals in two gluts; a hamstring problem between January and March stole some momentum in fairness.

While Sandro was also willing to lead the Malaga attack, there were times when he was too keen to try and unpick teams singlehandedly.

His dribbling, while often penetrative, can regularly end up with Sandro engulfed by opposition defenders with nowhere to turn. That’s an attribute that’s not helped by a tendency to dally in possession. Learning when to release the ball will make him a more multi-dimensional threat.

If Sandro is to play a supplementary role to a main striker, he’d also need to up his creative output. He laid on three assists for team-mates last season, although an average of 1.1 key passes per game was only bettered by Ross Barkley, Yannick Bolasie, Leighton Baines, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas in the Everton squad.

Would he be a good fit for Everton?

Provided Sandro is ready to move abroad in what remain the early years of his football career, the Toffees feel like an ideal next step.

Stylistically, he’s the type of player Koeman wants at Everton. Like Lucas Perez, who Arsenal pipped Everton to last summer, he is explosive, industrious and versatile in where he can be utilised. Factor in his bullish running and tenacity, you can see why the Dutchman and Steve Walsh were keen to check him out in the flesh.

Given the meagre fee he’d cost, it’d be no surprise to see the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal make a move for the player, as they’ll also be intent to bolster their squad for their respective European commitments next term.

However, having expedited his development with a season of regular football at Malaga, Sandro will be well aware of how important time on the pitch is if he’s to continue on an upward trajectory. Everton would be able to offer him that.

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