Everton coach David Unsworth admits the club were devastated to see Thierry Small join Premier League rivals Southampton in the summer transfer window, speaking to the Liverpool Echo.
There’s something strange going on behind the scenes at Goodison Park.
Everton have lifted the Premier League 2 title twice since 2017 and handed top-flight debuts to the likes of Tom Davies, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Jonjoe Kenny. However, when it comes to retaining their most exciting teenage talent, the Toffees have frequently fallen short.
Ligue 1 wonder kid Mohamed-Ali Cho turned down the chance to extend his stay on Merseyside before taking French football by storm at the age of just 17, as detailed here by The Athletic.
Small, meanwhile, upped sticks and headed to the South Coast just seven months after becoming the youngest player to feature in Everton’s first XI in the club’s 143-year history during a January FA Cup clash with Sheffield Wednesday.
Was Thierry Small right to leave Everton for Southampton?
“In fairness to (Everton), we did everything we possibly could (to keep Small),” Unsworth says of a Solihull-born defender who was linked with Manchester United and Arsenal before deciding St Mary’s was the place to be.
“We made him an unbelievable offer, we didn’t want him to leave. We never envisaged it coming.
“Until he actually did leave, we fought really hard to keep him. But when a player doesn’t want to be at your club, it’s very difficult to try to keep him.
“He got his way, and that’s usually the case these days.”
Southampton, of course, can boast an impressive track record when it comes to finding and developing exciting young full-backs.
Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers joined Manchester United and Arsenal respectively for a combined £45 million after rising through the ranks, while Kyle Walker-Peters and Tino Livramento have taken the Saints by storm after finding first-team opportunities hard to come by at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.
Small, then, is in good company at St Mary’s.