Niels Nkounkou says he sought to leave Everton on loan before joining Standard Liege at the end of the summer window in search of regular game time, via DH Les Sports+.
The full-back joined the Jupiler Pro League outfit on a season-long deal without an option to buy on Deadline Day. Nkounkou could make his Les Rouches debut this Sunday when Mbaye Leye’s side visit RFC Seraing.
Nkounkou featured once under Rafa Benitez before leaving Goodison Park, after starting in the Carabao Cup win over Huddersfield Town. The John Smith’s Stadium affair also marked his first competitive start since November after Carlo Ancelotti overlooked the Frenchman.
Following a summer 2020 move from Marseille, Nkounkou made six appearances across all competitions with Everton. But Ancelotti only started him four times – three in the EFL Cup and once in the Premier League against Newcastle.
Ancelotti additionally only fielded the 20-year-old once between losing at St James’ Park and a 12-minute cameo against Manchester City on the final day of the season. That came in the FA Cup, when fielded from the bench against Rotherham in January for 25-minutes.
Nkounkou wants to get as much time under his belt as he can while away from Everton at Standard Liege. While also eying helping Leye’s side qualify for a European competition.
“I’m here to earn as much playing time as possible and help the team reach Europe,” he said. “I already played in the middle-left with Everton, I can do the whole flank. My system of choice? I don’t have one, I play where the manager needs me.
“I’m ready to play. I discovered a talented team. I haven’t met everyone yet but from what I’ve seen, it’s promising.”
Will Everton fringe defender Nkounkou be a success during Standard Liege loan?
Standard Liege will also hope Nkounkou features regularly and helps their UEFA bid during his loan from Everton. Les Rouches started the Jupiler Pro League season with three wins in six games, sitting seventh entering the international break.
Leye’s side have also struggled to stop opposing teams scoring, with the Stade Maurice Dufrasne outfit allowing 11 so far. Only relegation-zone occupiers Beerschot (15) and fellow winless side Leuven (13) have conceded more than Standard Liege to date.
Everton will want Nkounkou to show his defensive acumen if Leye keeps the Frenchman in his natural left-back role while at Standard Liege. He was solid if not remarkable while free to push forward against Newcastle last season. And again showed flashes of promise in the EFL Cup last month, while delivering some threatening crosses into the box.