Nkounkou On Significant Everton Attraction

Niels Nkounkou says Everton’s tradition of blooding young talent, coupled with Carlo Ancelotti’s faith in emerging stars, influenced his decision to join the Club this summer.

Defender Nkounkou won numerous plaudits for an eye-catching debut in last week’s Carabao Cup second-round win over Salford City and could be in line for a second appearance when Everton go to Fleetwood Town in round three on Wednesday.

The 19-year-old came to Goodison Park in July after his Marseille contract expired and without any competitive football since 7 March following the curtailment of the French domestic campaign.

Nkounkou had “various” options but seeing the progress made by the likes of Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin following transfers to Everton as teenagers – and Academy graduate Anthony Gordon’s recent surge into the First-Team reckoning – convinced the Frenchman he could follow suit.

The full-back signed a three-year deal when he completed his move in July, leaving his homeland after close to three years with Marseille. He had a belated signing ceremony at USM Finch Farm last week after missing out on the practice because of COVID-19 restrictions when he first joined.

“We all know it can be difficult for young players to break through into senior teams but, as we have seen, Carlo has seen fit to put a lot of faith in me and other younger players,” Nkounkou told evertontv.

“I was conscious of the opportunities Everton have given to other young players if they worked hard and showed they could help the First Team.

“It is going to be a good moment for me to take my chance and really launch my career with Everton.

“As I see things, here in the Premier League, the managers seem to have more confidence about selecting younger players, so it was right and easy for me to come here.

“At the beginning I had some apprehension about moving away from my family, my friends and others I am close to, but I told myself that if you don't take that step when young, you will have those difficulties to come later in life.

“With some focus and hard work those difficulties can be overcome and I decided to make the change and leave.

"I am very happy today about the choice I made.”

Nkounkou seized chances to impress manager Ancelotti in two pre-season outings, beginning the game at home to Preston North End after playing from the bench at Blackpool.

Handed his first competitive start against Salford last week, the teenager responded with a potent display.

A rampaging left-back, he supplied seven crosses and embarked on three successful dribbles, wedding his judicious attacking to assured defending.

Nkounkou’s experience has largely been gained for Marseille’s ‘B’ team, which competes in the fourth tier of France’s domestic structure.

When that league went into shutdown in March, Nkounkou moved to scale up sessions with his personal trainer.

“I worked with a one-to-one fitness coach at my home in Cergy-Pontoise [the player’s birthplace] ,” explained Nkounkou.

"In the lockdown time we were always in contact and he planned sessions, then after we could work together.

“I did daily strength and physical workout sessions and went out running, so, thanks to my personal fitness coach, I maintained my fitness throughout.

“It was a little complicated with the difficulties we all had later in the season… I had five months without kicking a ball.

“The restart wasn't easy at first, picking up the daily rhythm of training sessions, but after one-to-two weeks, we all got back into the swing of things.

“Today I feel in great shape and that's the best thing.”

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Left-back speaks after win over West Brom.

Nkounkou is living with older brother William, also a footballer and hunting for an English employer.

The Everton player, whose original professional club was Brest, was raised in a footballing family and dad Patrick coaches the amateur side from Cergy-Pontoise.

Nkounkou has two France Under-19 caps – and in senior international and fellow left-back Lucas Digne a perfect mentor at Everton.

“Lucas is a very welcoming person, a great guy, and even though we play in the same position, he has helped me a lot and given me a lot advice,” added Nkounkou.

“He gave me some pointers about life over here… we get on really well together and he's someone I like a great deal.

“Daily life is good. Living with my brother means I am not alone when I go home.

“We are training very hard and I try to rest and recover after sessions. Because I am focused only on football, the rest of my life for now is much as it was in France.”