There has always been a nagging feeling in the back of Everton minds that Nikola Vlasic deserved more of a chance at Goodison Park.
But, like Davy Klaassen and Ademola Lookman, a Croatian midfielder signed by Ronald Koeman, ignored by Sam Allardyce and sold by Marco Silva was lost in all the upheaval that took place during a period of seemingly relentless transition on Merseyside.
Vlasic started just seven Premier League games before being flogged to CSKA Moscow in a deal worth £14 million.
At the time, Everton may have thought that represented good business – £4 million profit on a player who had barely kicked a ball in anger in that famous blue shirt.
Two years on, however, and it’s difficult to shake the feeling Vlasic’s father got it right: “The manager (Marco Silva) made a big mistake.”
Because, during three stellar seasons in Russia – one on loan, two after joining CSKA on a permanent basis – Vlasic has blossomed into one of the most promising young attacking midfielders in Europe.
Since the start of 2018/19, Vlasic has contributed 30 goals and 20 assists – more than Gylfi Sigurdsson and James Rodriguez – with his man of the match performance in that stunning 3-0 away win at Real Madrid in the Champions League the stuff of legend.
And if Everton were happy with their £4 million profit, CSKA look destined to rake in far, far more for a man now attracting interest from European giants such as Napoli.
“I know some clubs wanted to buy me but CSKA said they would not let me go if they didn’t pay €35 million (£30 million) for me,” Vlasic, the 2020 Russian Premier League player of the year, tells SoccerRu.
Vlasic Sr had a point. Marco Silva – and Everton as a whole – should have shown more faith in this brilliant little midfield dynamo.