Michael Keane is planning to tap into Carlo Ancelotti’s insight on the methods of herculean Real Madrid and Spain defender Sergio Ramos.
Everton centre-back Keane’s terrific form in the closing months of last season was rewarded with a recall to the England fold ahead of this campaign – and following a series of authoritative displays from the outset of 2020/21, the player is hoping to retain his spot when manager Gareth Southgate names his latest squad on Thursday.
The former Manchester United defender, Everton's only league and cup ever-present this term, is an advocate of watching experts in his position as a means of self-improvement.
In addition to the specialised drills he followed during lockdown, then, Keane trawled for clips of role-model Ramos and former Chelsea titan John Terry in action.
Ramos, 34, a World Cup winner in 2010, claimed the first of his four Champions League crowns under Ancelotti, who was in charge at Real Madrid for two years from 2013.
Keane is seven years Ramos’s junior and was this month in an England squad which, for all its youthful promise, contained six potential centre-halves with an average age of 27 for meetings with Iceland and Denmark.
“I am still learning and improving and as a centre-half you probably don’t hit your peak until 28 to 32,” Keane told evertonfc.com.
“Young centre-halves will make mistakes.
“You have to learn from those mistakes and also watch the best centre-halves in the world and learn from them and see how they play and what they do.
“Experience in that position is key.
"For the past 10 years or so, Sergio Ramos has been one of the main players I’ve studied.
“I was watching clips of John Terry over lockdown and when I was growing up it was Rio Ferdinand.
“You try to pick things from their games and add them to yours.
“I go on YouTube and search for footage but last time I was with England [in October 2019 prior to his recent recall] the set-piece coach showed me some clips of Ramos.
“He has scored so many goals as a centre-back attacking set plays.
“The coach was showing me his movement and how aggressive it is, how aggressive his change of direction is to lose his man before he attacks the ball.
“When you watch those clips it shows how aggressive you have to be and the work that goes into that.”
Keane recently became the third Englishman this year after Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin to commit his long-term future to Everton and was duly followed by teenage Academy graduate Anthony Gordon, who penned five-year terms this month.
All four players have spoken glowingly about the influence of Ancelotti, who was appointed Everton manager in December and has served as boss at a collection of European super clubs.
As such, he is privy to the secrets of a number of the game’s elite defenders – Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Ramos among them – in addition to having the lowdown on multiple high-class centre-backs from 16 years as a midfielder with Parma, Roma, AC Milan and Italy.
Ancelotti has made multiple changes for cup matches this term. Keane was the only player retained from the opening-day Premier League win at Tottenham Hotspur for the Carabao Cup second-round victory over Salford City and responded by heading the opening goal of a 3-0 win from Gylfi Sigurdsson's corner.
He was first to react to a loose ball following a set-piece three days later, scoring to restore Everton's lead in the league success against West Bromwich Albion.
“I really want to talk to the manager about those players and I have already spoken to Davide [Ancelotti, Assistant Manager] about some of them," said Keane.
“He told me Sergio Ramos is a top professional and I want to learn more from the manger about him.
“Carlo has worked with a lot of the best centre-halves who have played the game, so I want to pick his brains about them and learn a few things.
“I am learning a lot from him every day but it would be helpful to hear what he thinks of those players and how they trained and prepared and who was the best he played with.
“Studying those players would be brilliant and it [talking to Ancelotti] is something I will do soon.”