Everton first-team coach Craig Shakespeare believes Michael Keane is starting to display his full potential with the Blues.
The defender impressed in Everton’s 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday, first playing alongside Eliaquim Mangala, and then Ashley Williams when the French international was forced off through injury just before half-time.
Shakespeare has worked with Keane before – he was Leicester City assistant boss when the defender was on loan at the club during the 2012/13 Championship campaign.
And the man who went on to manage the Foxes believes Keane’s spell at the King Power Stadium was key to his progression.
“Michael came to us [at Leicester] from Manchester United with a lot of potential but without the experience at that level, which we were able to give him,” he said.
“Coming from Under-18 and Under-21 to Championship football, he found it more rough and ready, and more direct. I think it was great experience for him, and he will tell you that.
“In terms of his progression, he has had England recognition, he has had to deal with a big transfer fee, now he is starting to settle down and show what he is really capable of.”
Mangala’s arrival on transfer deadline day means competition for places at centre-back is currently fierce.
Keane will be battling with the Frenchman, skipper Phil Jagielka, Williams, Mason Holgate and the returning Ramiro Funes Mori for a place in Sam Allardyce’s starting XI.
And Shakespeare believes Keane can rise to that challenge.
“I think competition for places is healthy and all players need that,” he said. “Michael is one of those. It is our job as coaches to say, ‘they have come in, it is up to you how you deal with it’.
“As coaches, and a manager, you want to try to build a squad, and it is up to players then to try to get into that first XI.”
For Shakespeare, who arrived with Allardyce at the end of November, he is relishing being at a club with lofty ambitions - and believes exciting times lie ahead for Everton.
“I knew that before I came and being in here has just further confirmed that,” he added. “The owner, chairman, manager and fans - everybody is ambitious.
“You get that feeling walking around, not only the training ground, but the buzz about the stadium as well.”