Carlo Ancelotti has saluted Jean-Philippe Gbamin’s “strong character and great desire”, as he reinforced his belief the Ivorian boasts the technical and physical attributes of a high-class midfielder.
Gbamin made his first Everton appearance in 597 days in the Blues’ 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace on Easter Monday. The 25-year-old, who has been sidelined with serious hamstring and Achilles injuries, was introduced as a 79th-minute substitute at Goodison Park.
Manager Ancelotti has been impressed with Gbamin’s training performances since he resumed sessions with his Toffees teammates at USM Finch Farm.
And, while the Italian says Everton will manage Gbamin’s return to competitive action carefully, he believes the former FSV Mainz player can have an important role to play in the Blues’ final nine games of the Premier League campaign.
“Jean-Philippe has a great desire to play,” Ancelotti told evertontv.
“He is training now normally with the others, showing good quality. He can play without any problems, I think.
“He is a good guy. He is calm and focused. He has all the qualities – technically and physically – of a top midfielder.
“This season we have to be patient with him. He was out for a long time. But he is here, and he is working well. He will be important for us.
“With a strong character, he can be a top midfielder in the future.”
Monday’s clash with Palace saw James Rodriguez line up for Everton for the first time since the Blues’ Merseyside derby triumph at Anfield on 20 February.
The Colombian marked his return with a splendid goal, rifling in a pinpoint drive with his supposed weaker right foot to put Everton in front 11 minutes after the half-time interval.
The strike looked like it was going to secure a deserved victory for Ancelotti’s side, who created a host of opportunities throughout the game, but the Blues were hit with a sucker punch four minutes from time when Palace substitute Michy Batshuayi netted an equaliser.
Ancelotti underlined the importance of Everton being more ruthless in front of goal but says his team’s enterprising attacking play – with James instrumental – offers encouragement they can achieve the points required to achieve European qualification.
“We played better in attack [against Palace],” he said. “We had more movement and ideas.
“It is true that when James is in the game, he is really important for us. He put a lot of quality in the game and fantastic ability. It is great for us to have him.
“His quality is really high. It is top. He never loses the ball. He always passes the ball with efficiency. This is James Rodriguez.”
Ancelotti added: “I think we need five or six wins to be in Europe. The fact we played with ability in front [is a positive].
“Apart from the final shots on goal, which were not so good, we were quite efficient to arrive in front of the goalkeeper. We had three or four opportunities one-on-one with the keeper.”
Next up for Everton is a trip to the south coast to face Brighton & Hove Albion on Monday 12 April (8.15pm BST).
Ancelotti says he expects Allan and Alex Iwobi to be fit for that encounter having missed the Palace game through injury, while Andre Gomes will be assessed having been forced off with a hamstring problem 30 minutes into Monday’s game at Goodison. The Blues boss added Jordan Pickford is not expected to be ready to face Brighton.
Ancelotti also offered reassuring words for Everton youngster Tyler Onyango, who sustained a significant ankle fracture and ligament injury in Everton Under-18s’ 1-0 FA Youth Cup victory over Manchester City on Saturday.
Ancelotti gave the 18-year-old his senior Everton debut in January’s 3-0 FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday and has regularly named the midfielder in his Premier League matchday squads in recent weeks.
“His injury was really unlucky, but this is what can happen in football sometimes,” Ancelotti said.
“He has to stay quite calm. He can have a fantastic career. I hope he can recover soon.”