Belgium manager Roberto Martinez says Everton’s new signing Amadou Onana is “one of the most exciting prospects in Europe”.
The Toffees completed the signing of the 20-year-old midfielder on a five-year deal from Lille on Tuesday, beating former favourites West Ham to his signature in the process.
Martinez, who managed Everton between 2013 and 2016 and handed Onana his senior international debut earlier this year, has given an exclusive insight into what fans can expect from the club’s fifth signing of the summer.
“He’s a really exciting footballer. I know sometimes when we speak about players it’s very difficult to measure potential,” he told Sky Sports News.
“We’re talking about a 20-year-old boy that is probably one of the most talented young players at that age in European football. That’s how excited we are in Belgium.
“He’s already played in two major leagues in Germany and France, he joined Lille for a big fee and nothing is going to faze him to go into a new project after a big transfer fee.
“He has the physicality and the presence of a player Everton fans know very well – a Marouane Fellaini type. I can understand the excitement around Everton, this is one of the most exciting prospects in European football at this time.”
Onana played 41 games in all competitions last term, often in the middle of a 4-4-2 setup, as Lille followed up their Ligue 1 triumph in 2020/21 with a disappointing 10th-place finish.
He remains very much in the formative years of his career, but Martinez suggests he has already made such an impression that he comes to Goodison Park as a potential future captain.
He said: “I’m sure Everton will use him in a more defensive role or he can be used box-to-box where he really uses his physicality. Off the ball, he is one of his most impressive young players with his intensity, the way he can press and then his arrival into the box.
“Sometimes he reminds you of a young Patrick Vieira in the way he drives with the ball.
“I think it would be a shame if we speak only about his technical and tactical abilities. He is quite unique in the way he is as a character. He is a leader as a young man who is already affecting the others in the dressing room.
“He knows exactly what he wants. He wants to make a massive impact, he wants to grow with the club and that probably is the most impressive aspect of his game, the way he talks, the way he becomes a coach on the pitch. He’s got this incredible maturity which is not normal at such a young age.
“He’s going to be 21 next week so you’re still talking about potential but what’s already there is the leadership and the captain material that he brings to Everton. He joined the [Belgium] first team in June and is a player who is already challenging to get into the World Cup squad at the age of 20.”
Along with the comparisons to one Premier League legend, Martinez says working with another in Frank Lampard will accelerate his development, too.
“Amadou made his decision of where to go and I think that conversation with Frank Lampard was a very significant and important one,” he added.
“Amadou wants to develop and grow, and I’m sure that relationship with the manager and being able to talk in a very direct way about that position on the pitch has been a massive pull. He is a wonderful young character in the perfect moment of the club with a manager able to speak about the specifics of the position.
“I know he has already looked into the history of the club and the times when Everton were winning titles, and I think that’s the first thing he wanted, to see that again.
“The fee could be a very small one if he carries on with his development in the way he has. He decided to go to the French champions at 19, he wanted to take the challenge of Champions League football and he was a very important player in that dressing room.
“He didn’t play all the full 90 minutes because I don’t think his body was ready to cope with that, but in terms of the way he performed in that role was very impressive.
“That’s why the value he has in the market is not a fee you feel is overpriced at all. If anything his value is going to carry on growing.”
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