Marten de Roon insisted that he was ‘incredibly lucky’ to get a chance in English football with Middlesbrough last season but believed that if he wanted to prove himself at the top if the Premier League he would have to aim a little higher.
"I won't get to play for Manchester City, or another club among the top five in England. But I do think that I can develop myself to the level needed to play for a club like Everton,” the Dutch midfielder, who cost Boro £12 million from Atalanta last year, told The Sun.
In the end, however, a move to Goodison Park did not materialise despite The Mail reporting in May that scouts from Everton had watched De Roon in action during the 3-0 defeat to Chelsea which sealed Boro’s relegation.
Instead, De Roon returned to Atalanta – and he has a chance to prove a point to Everton on Thursday evening as The Toffees begin their Europa League campaign against the Serie A high-flyers. Ronald Koeman's side travel to Reggio Emilia for what is likely to be a tough test in a group also containing Ligue 1 giants Lyon and Cypriot minnows Apollon Limassol.
And the one-time Netherlands international, who stood out as Atalanta defeated Sassuolo 2-1 at the weekend, is expected to start at the heart of midfield and will need to be at his snarling best if Gian Piero Gasperini’s side are to stop The Toffees leaving Italy with at least one point.
De Roon, a tenacious and energetic central midfielder, will be relied upon to stop Everton’s dangermen, namely Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klaassen, scoring or creating from deep.
And, if he impresses, De Roon could do worse than to remind Everton of his desire to ply his trade at Goodison Park.