Magaye Gueye: I Went Home And Cried When I Left Everton, It Was My Fault

Magaye Gueye spent four years with Everton after a transfer from Strasbourg in the summer of 2010, but, by his own admission, the forward rarely hit the heights at Goodison Park.

In an interview originally published in the matchday programme for this month's meeting with Leeds United, the Frenchman, who left home aged 12 to pursue his football dream, explains why he “didn’t make it with Everton” – and opens up on a rollercoaster career that is receiving a jump-start in Greece following a turbulent and controversial spell at Dinamo Bucharest.

Magaye Gueye wasn’t at Dinamo Bucharest long before the alarms bells started sounding.

One of more than a dozen players charmed into signing by a new Spanish owner promising the world, Gueye was turfed out of his hotel after Dinamo failed to settle a bill.

He’d been in Romania roughly seven weeks – without receiving a wage – when FIFPro, the global players’ union, revealed Dinamo had “not paid multiple players since the start of the season and… put their health and safety at risk by failing to ensure medical staff are present at training”.

The sunlit vision sold by Pablo Cortacero, who bought a majority share in the club in August 2020 and duly vowed to breathe new life into an ailing giant, briskly clouded over.

Dinamo began haemorrhaging personnel. Aleix Garcia, the former Manchester City midfielder, for example, joined at the same time as Gueye, in October 2020, and bailed for Eibar in Spain two months later.

Gueye, meanwhile, launched a case for breach of contract, via FIFA. Any hearing finding in favour of the forward would have resulted in Dinamo paying up the remainder of a two-year deal and Gueye walking away for nothing.

But it didn’t get that far. In February 2021, Gueye was selected to play a cup game against FCSB. Post-match, Dinamo asked external doping control to test their player.

“I was thinking, ‘This is a joke’,” says Gueye, whose sample revealed traces of cocaine.

“The sample showed the amount was next to nothing and not taken voluntarily,” he continues. “That is why my ban was only three months.

“I felt they [Dinamo] didn’t care about me or how I was living. 

 “I was kicked out of my hotel because they didn’t pay.

“They kept telling me they’d pay my wages but didn’t. I was fighting with them and didn’t want to train.

“I am a sensitive person and can lose my head really fast.

“I met some bad people there. I was in a bad place and that is when stupid things can happen to you.”

It is important to point out, here, that Gueye is not seeking to wash his hands of responsibility, only to provide context for why he began acting out.

To absolve himself of blame would amount to a betrayal of a resilient and accountable personality.

Gueye left home for the academy of RC Strasbourg when he was 12. That experience, initially, was a “nightmare”. Gueye was “scared” when he joined Everton shortly before his 20th birthday and looks only in the mirror when pointing the finger over his departure four years later.

Magaye Gueye
I am a sensitive person and can lose my head really fast. I met some bad people there. I was in a bad place and that is when stupid things can happen to you.

“I knew I had the talent to be a great player at Everton,” says Gueye.

“I went home and cried after my last day. It was not Everton’s fault, it was my fault.

“If you are not at peace, if you have so many problems outside the pitch, it is hard to perform at that high level.

“That’s why I regret that time so much – I couldn’t give my all.”

There, then, is an outline of how, from March last year, Gueye came to be holed up in his Paris apartment, training alone twice a day.

His hunt for a club – conducted without an agent, because “I can trust only myself” – ended in January, when Anagennisi Karditas of the Greek second division recognised the abiding promise of a player who, by his own reckoning, has “grown up”.

“It isn’t even the money, it is the passion to play again,” says Gueye.

“I don’t like anything else and I don’t like doing nothing.

“The only thing I want is to stay in football.”

Magaye Gueye
I knew I had the talent to be a great player at Everton. I went home and cried after my last day. It was not Everton’s fault, it was my fault.

We can begin filling in the gaps in Gueye’s story by returning to Strasbourg. Former player Marc Keller – now club president – spotted the schoolboy attacker playing for US Lognes in Paris’s eastern suburbs.

Gueye’s father advocated his son leaving the family home for a new life, but mum was hesitant about the youngest child of four relocating around 290 miles west to the German border.

The deciding vote went to 12-year-old Gueye, who sensed “the opportunity might come only once”.

At Strasbourg, the presence of Jean-Marc Kuentz, the club’s training centre director, was a godsend.

“He helped so much and believed in me from the first day I set foot in there,” says Gueye.

“It was a nightmare, for me, leaving home so young.

“I felt really sad and alone.

“But it never crossed my mind to give up. My dream was to be a footballer.

“At around 14, I began understanding how privileged I was to have this chance.

“When you are a different colour, there are fewer opportunities. You have to do more.

“I came from a very bad area, nobody wants to hang out with you because of that background.

“The chance to go to Strasbourg and be somebody was special, for me.”

Gueye made a senior debut in November 2008, four months after turning 18.

He scored in each of his team’s opening five games in the following 2009/10 season, but Strasbourg were relegated from Ligue 2 nonetheless – and the gifted left-footer was the club’s most liquid asset.

Everton liked Gueye’s performances for France at the summer Toulon Tournament and, with an unlikely source greasing the wheels, arranged a deal for the player.

“My first full season with Strasbourg was very stressful,” begins Gueye. “I was the youngest player and felt I was carrying the team on my shoulders.

“I planned to stay to help the club back to Ligue 2 but they wanted to sell me and told me not to come back to training.

“I didn’t want to go to Everton at that time.

“I was very happy to have such a big club interested but a little bit scared, thinking I might not play. They had bigger and better players than me.

“Other clubs wanted me: Lyon, Monaco, Aston Villa and Birmingham City.

“The Strasbourg president spoke to Gerard Houllier [former Liverpool manager and French Football Federation technical director], who I knew from the France youth teams.

“Houllier said Everton was a very good club, with a good manager.

“[Manager] David Moyes also asked him about me and he said very good things.”

Gueye was viewed as one of the continent’s coming players and, at 18, changed his phone to avoid incessant calls from agents.

He acquired his starry reputation playing as a winger for Strasbourg, the position Moyes considered the best fit for Gueye.

“I am a typical number 10 but football changed,” starts Gueye, “a lot of managers want counter-attacking teams and play 4-3-3.

“That was a big factor in my career, playing on the left reduced my potential.

“I was never really fast, not really a winger.

“I liked to touch the ball, like Steven Pienaar. But Everton had Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill, who were strong in the air, so the manager wanted me to provide crosses.”

Gueye was “always in the red zone” in his formative months in England.

“They gave me a new training programme and lots of protein,” he laughs.

“The first few months were a nightmare.

“My dad came with me but it was hard off the field, too. I couldn’t speak English and everything was completely different.

“But I was always thinking, ‘Stay. Even if I don’t make it happen, I will learn. I will not lose anything’.”

Gueye’s stickability paid off. He speedily picked up the language and was handed a first appearance in a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa at Goodison Park late in 2010/11.

The closing months of the following campaign represented the high watermark of Gueye’s four years with the Club.

There was the night at Sunderland for an FA Cup quarter-final replay when an on-song Gueye toyed with the home defence. He scored and created two goals in a Premier League game against the same opponents a fortnight later and kept his place for the Cup semi-final with Liverpool.

“My debut was incredible,” says Gueye.

“I was not nervous. I worked all my life for that moment and played well.

“Training with those players every day, I started to realise, ‘I have some quality, so I deserve to be here'.

“When I feel good, like in the Sunderland Cup match, I can show crazy things on the pitch.

“But I had a lot of personal problems, family problems, which was why I couldn’t show more.

“I had no life experience and it was too much for me.”

There were, says Gueye, only three detailed conversations with Moyes in as many years: “When he welcomed me, one time when I was late for training and he told me not to waste my opportunity, and before the semi-final.

Magaye Gueye
Training with those players every day, I started to realise, ‘I have some quality, so I deserve to be here'.

“But," continues Gueye, “He liked me. He had different ways of showing it, but, like a dad, he’d tell me what to do and I’d do it.

“I will always be grateful he gave me the chance to touch the highest level.”

Gueye spent the second half of 2012/13 on loan with Brest in Ligue 1 and returned to be told by new Everton manager Roberto Martinez that he could find another club.

The tearful exit, then, was one year in the making. Gueye played nine minutes for Martinez, scoring in an FA Cup win at Stevenage, before joining Millwall in summer 2014.

Gueye has talked about “letting myself down” in his final Everton season. What did he mean?

“When something bad happens, I think so much and feel so down,” says Gueye.

“The relationship with my dad was not right, there was a misunderstanding.

“It was a very hard time.

“I let myself down because all this happened.

“I didn’t make it at Everton but I will never forget the Club because of the great people.”

Gueye had one season at Millwall, where “the football didn’t suit me and I didn’t perform”.

The club’s relegation to League One prompted an exit – and a moment of realisation.

“I received a call from the president of Adanaspor,” laughs Gueye.

“I didn’t know Adana was a city, I thought it was just the name of a kebab.”

Newly clued-up, Gueye joined the Turkish club and directly contributed to 14 goals, as Adanaspor gained promotion into the top division, 12 months after a brush with demotion to the third tier.

His reward?

“They wanted to get rid of me. In Turkey, it is normal to get rid of everyone after promotion. The club has more money and wants big names.

“I said, ‘Okay, pay my final year and I will leave’.

“But they wanted me to just go.”

Gueye was thankful for his adhesiveness, once more. Adanaspor didn’t capture their targets and eventually settled on the formerly expendable player as first-pick centre-forward.

He responded with 10 goals for a relegated team and was being eyed by Fenerbahce and moneyed clubs from China.

Adanaspor, however, invoked an option to keep Gueye for one more season before he transferred to fellow second-tier club Osmanlispor.

“It was the only club they’d let me join,” says Gueye.

“The president of Adanaspor was a very hard and complicated man.

“But I still love the club. Turkey is an amazing place and the people are crazy about football.

“I arrived home after losing a derby for Adanaspor and some fans were waiting for me. That’s how it is.”

Osmanlispor losing a promotion play-off final on penalties convinced Gueye to accept an offer from Qarabag, even though he’d never heard of the cash-rich club from Azerbaijan.

“I did some research and discovered they played regularly in the Champions League,” says Gueye.

“The club is so professional, with huge investment and incredible facilities.”

Gueye scored with virtually his first touch for Qarabag, in a Champions League qualifier against APOEL Nicosia, ushering in a season when he won a domestic title and featured regularly in the Europa League.

“But my relationship with the coach wasn’t good,” says Gueye.

“He was a good person, but I didn’t like the way he managed the team.

“Leaving was a mistake, though.

“I went home when my contract ended and only Dinamo called.”

Gueye is tentatively plotting for life after football and an academy in Africa to “help talented players realise their dreams” is potentially in the offing. There is talk, too, of work as an agent.

In the meantime, he has unfinished business to attend to, beginning in Greece.

“The ban was big news, but I know who I am,” says Gueye.

“I used to be so scared of what people thought of me.

“Now, I don’t care. I have grown up. I really missed playing, it is what I’ve done all my life. 

“I do things my way and follow my goals.”