An exclusive interview with Idrissa Gana Gueye headlines a bumper matchday programme for Everton’s Premier League clash with Leicester City on Saturday.
The midfielder opens up on his lasting love for the Blues, a habit of watching his former side during his three-year stint with French giants Paris Saint-Germain, his relationship with "unique" Seamus Coleman and why he sees parallels with Frank Lampard's ways as those he experienced on the way to AFCON glory with Senegal.
Check out a sneak preview of our Gana exclusive below and click here to order your copy now.
The star-studded line-up of Paris Saint-Germain prepare to wind down for the evening in the team hotel ahead of an important game the following day.
In one of those rooms, Everton are on the television — again.
Julian Draxler and Presnel Kimpembe, two of Idrissa Gana Gueye’s close friends, simultaneously roll their eyes as they prepare to lose their colleague for another tense 90 minutes, with the Blues in the midst of a nerve-wracking fight to preserve an unbroken run of 71 years in the top-flight.
“It would happen every time,” Gana replies, when asked how often he would watch the Blues during his three-year absence from Goodison Park. “My friends would say, ‘Oh, get out with your team!’... They used to try to wind me up because they knew how much I cared, but I told them, ‘You will see, we will be okay!’
“It hurt me to see the Club having a difficult time but I never stopped believing in them.
“The last few games were really, really tough for me because I was believing but I was worrying, too.
“This club can’t go down to the Championship. When they managed to do it against Crystal Palace, they made me proud.
“Then, seeing the supporters after the final whistle and seeing what it means to them, it’s a good moment and it just shows how big club this is.
“But now I want to leave those kind of moments and reactions for the successful moments. I want us to be celebrating winning, not staying in the league - it’s a different thing.
“Last season is done now. It’s a fresh start.”
So far, the 2022/23 campaign has felt as such.
The landscape has shifted significantly since manager Frank Lampard took the managerial reins nine months ago, with Gana — one of eight new summer signings — an important cog in this new-look Everton side.
Naturally, such is the world of modern football, there have been other key changes during Gana’s stint with PSG but, comfortingly, certain elements have remained the same.
Everton’s Energizer Bunny proclaimed he was “coming home” after sealing a return to Merseyside from Paris on deadline day of the last transfer window.
He returned to the Blues having won six domestic trophies in the French capital, reaching the Champions League final and playing an integral part in Senegal’s first-ever Africa Cup of Nations triumph.
“I’m very, very happy to have another opportunity to give my all for this club,” smiles Gana, apologising for his near-perfect English, insisting he has forgotten some of his vocabulary during his time away. “I spent three years here and once you are a blue, you are always a blue.
“How can I explain? It’s in my heart and it’s a feeling that will not leave. This club is part of me. It’s hard to find the words but coming back here, the sensation I had was that — like coming home.
“I had a good period in PSG and I was only ever going to leave for Everton.
“There were other opportunities, but I told my agent to refuse them straight away. It wasn’t in my plan to come back, but, as soon as Everton called me and said they needed me and wanted me to help... I cannot say no. It’s my home, that’s how I feel.
“I can’t say no to Everton, regardless of whether they’re at the top of the league or bottom.
“It doesn’t matter for me because I care about this club. I’m up for this challenge and I want to help us move up the table.
“I want to bring my experiences from the past three years with me to the team.
“The reaction I’ve had from the Evertonians has made me very, very proud.
“They just confirmed to me — not that I had any doubts whatsoever — that I made the right decision to come back here.
“They’ve shown me that I’m part of this family.
“That’s the most important thing to me: the human beings, the people.”
Elsewhere in the matchday read, there is a Q&A with Gana's midfield colleague Amadou Onana, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is the subject of our Teenage Kicks feature and much, much more.
Pick up a copy of the programme, priced £4, around the ground or, alternatively, click here to order a copy online.