Olivier Dacourt says Lucas Digne’s impressive start to his Everton career has been “no surprise” as he backed his countryman to continue to shine for Club and country.
The former Blues midfielder also praised the 25-year-old’s strong character, adding Digne “has done well whatever challenge he has faced”.
Digne, who signed for the Toffees from Barcelona this summer, has swiftly adapted to English football. He started Everton’s past 14 top-flight matches, turning in a series of accomplished displays.
The left-back’s attacking ambition and ball-striking ability is underlined by the fact he has delivered more accurate crosses (39) than any other Premier League player this season. He also bagged his first Toffees goal in memorable fashion, curling home an inch-perfect free-kick to snatch the Blues a point against Watford at Goodison Park on 10 December.
No top-flight defender has made more key passes than Digne (34), while his hunger to take possession has also caught the eye. He had the most touches of the ball of any Everton player this term.
Dacourt, who made 36 Everton appearances having spent the 1998-99 season at the Club, is convinced there is even more to come from the former Roma and Paris St Germain player.
“I know Lucas and he is a competitive player,” he said. “He has come from one of the biggest clubs in the world [Barcelona], where he handled himself well.
“I am not surprised to see him playing so well for Everton. He is at a club where he is playing every week. He is strong and that is showing even more now that he is playing regularly.
"The Premier League is very difficult, it is something special. But I had no worries about how he would adapt, because he has always done well whatever challenge he has faced.”
Dacourt was also eager to highlight the full-back’s astute defensive work.
In the Everton squad, only livewire midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye has made more tackles than Digne’s 32 – a statistic all the more impressive when considered the Senegalese tops the Premier League chart in this category.
Dacourt, now a pundit in his homeland for television channel Canal+, says the quality of players Digne has played alongside during his career has helped him to develop his game.
He also believes Digne is benefiting from being pushed for a starting spot by a left-back boasting the pedigree of Leighton Baines.
“When you are used to defending in training every day against the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Francesco Totti, Zlatan Ibrahimovic - all those big players – you progress and increase your level,” he said.
“He will like Baines being there as genuine competition, too. It is what he will expect at a big club.”
After missing on France’s World Cup squad, Digne’s fine Everton form has seen him recalled by boss Didier Deschamps.
He won his 23rd senior international cap in November as the world champions beat Holland 2-0 at the Stade de France.
Dacourt is convinced the defender boasts the attributes to become a fixture in a Les Bleus squad possessing a glittering array of talent.
“The reason he missed out was nothing to do with his ability, he just had not played quite enough for Barcelona,” he said.
“He has always been around the squad for the past three or four years.
“It is not a surprise that Didier Deschamps recalled him - he knows Lucas and he knows how good he is.
“He is still young, but he is a quality player. And he is a good lad, too.”