Abdoulaye Doucoure wants to mature into “a great player” with Everton – and insists the depth of his welcome to the Club was a “happy surprise”.
Towering midfielder Doucoure is in line for his first Merseyside derby on Saturday after joining Everton from Watford last month.
The Frenchman has been one of the revelations of Everton’s winning start to the season, earning instant acclaim at Goodison Park for a series of compelling performances.
An exclusive in-depth interview with the player features in Everton’s matchday programme for this weekend’s derby encounter.
Doucoure details how he was spurred to succeed in his youth by the prospect of providing for his mum and dad and seven siblings and extended family in his parents’ African homeland of Mali.
As he advanced with first club Rennes, then at Watford in the Premier League, Doucoure consistently redefined his aims.
Those goals crystallised with a transfer to Goodison and his integral position in manager Carlo Ancelotti’s progressive and resourceful Everton team.
“My motivation today is to become a great player,” said Doucoure.
“I want to play in a top team and to keep helping my family.
“To be professional and stay in the starting XI every week.
“I improved a lot with Watford.
“I was the main guy in the middle, running up and back to help the team. Sometimes trying to do the jobs of the other guys.
“Javi Gracia [former Watford manager] told me, ‘You run for the others, run for yourself, first’.
“Everton was a big step for me, I worked hard to be in the team.
"I have a very good relationship with the manager and he put his trust in me.
“He doesn’t speak too much. He just gives one or two words of advice and gives you confidence and I can feel I am improving straight away.
“I heard a lot of good things about him before I came but he is even better than I expected.
“I improved already with him and I want to keep going the same way.”
Doucoure made his first Everton appearances four days after signing and was joined in the team which won 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur by fellow debutants James Rodriguez and Allan.
The 27-year-old featured from the beginning in subsequent Premier League victories over West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion, contributing his first assist against Brighton a fortnight ago with a delicately-clipped cross for James to score.
Doucoure, who played 129 Premier League matches for Watford after transferring from Ligue 1 Rennes in January 2016, is still waiting for full international honours.
He represented France at every level from Under-17 to Under-21 and reckons Everton can provide the springboard for him to make the final jump.
Additionally, Doucoure refuses to shy away from his team’s ambition of capitalising on their flawless start by launching a concerted bid for Champions League football.
“Everton is a big club and a great platform for me to reach the national team – but I have to work hard and have the right mentality," said Doucoure.
“We are looking very good as a team and have a lot of players with top quality.
“We have the capacity to qualify for the Champions League but it is a long season.
“Our start has been good but we have to stay focused and perform every week.”
Doucoure attributes his overnight bedding-in process – and the similarly prompt adaptations of South Americans Allan and James – to the twin-forces of the players’ shared desire to join Everton and manner in which they've been embraced in every corner of the Club.
“Everyone has been so welcoming, giving me advice about where to live, telling me the places to go,” said Doucoure.
“Players already here, like Seamus Coleman, Dom [Calvert-Lewin], Tom Davies and Fabian Delph are great guys and really helped me settle.
“It is a great city and the people are really nice.
“The fans are amazing and everyone who runs this club is great.
“To have people talking about Everton is very good for us and the Club deserves it.
“I was very surprised by the welcome I had.
“It was a happy surprise and showed it was the best choice for me to come to Everton.”
Abdoulaye Doucoure talks candidly about the trio of setbacks which threatened his career, a belated start in football and his view on Everton's standing in the English game in an exclusive far-ranging feature in the official matchday programme for Saturday's 237th Merseyside derby.
Secure your copy here to read Doucoure's full interview, Carlo Ancelotti's message to Evertonians, a comprehensive interview with Leon Osman, who opens up on his burgeoning media duties and the inauspicious beginning to his senior Everton career, and to catch up on news from the Club's Women, Under-23 and Under-18 teams.