Everton’s capture of Abdoulaye Doucoure from Watford completed a whirlwind four days at Goodison Park following the arrivals of South Americans Allan and James Rodriguez.
The trio made their debuts in a 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur on the opening day of 2020/21 and Doucoure would score three goals from 34 appearances in his first Everton season.
He began 29 Premier League matches, the only game Doucoure didn't start when available a 1-0 win at West Ham United when the player was coming back from two months out with a fractured foot.
Frenchman Doucoure, capped at every age-group level for his country from Under-17 to Under-21, had four-and-a-half years with Watford after transferring from Rennes in his homeland in February 2016.
He played 129 Premier League matches for the Vicarage Road club – only two players have appeared more in the division for Watford – and was an FA Cup finalist in 2019.
Doucoure originally switched to Granada for a three-month loan following his transfer from Rennes, his new club asking the player to spearhead a fight against relegation for Watford’s then sister club in Spain.
The midfielder emphatically accepted the challenge, contributing a string of towering performances to inspire Granada to five wins and four draws from his 13 La Liga starts, a return good enough to beat the drop by a solitary point.
Doucoure made his Watford debut as a substitute at Chelsea in the opening month of 2016/17 but had to wait until his 24th birthday – New Year’s Day 2017 – for a first start, at home against Tottenham Hotspur.
The player opened his Premier League account at Vicarage Road against Southampton two months after that full debut as he progressively established himself as a starting XI fixture – flicking between attacking and defensive midfield assignments.
Doucoure was Watford’s standout performer in 2017/18 – a statement corroborated by his club player-of-the-season prize – the campaign when he counted new Everton colleague Richarlison as a teammate.
He played every minute of 37 Premier League games, missing out once due to suspension, scoring seven goals and adding six assists.
Doucoure would feature in 37 of 38 top-flight matches in his final 2019/20 season – sitting out one match for the same reason as two years previously – but despite a mini-revival at the beginning of Nigel Pearson’s short-lived tenure Watford were relegated by a one-point margin.
The intervening 2018/19 campaign featured a run to the FA Cup final, with Doucoure one of the driving forces behind a recovery from 2-0 down to stun Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Wembley semi-final.
In the Premier League, he scored five goals and assisted six in 35 appearances.
When he left Watford, Doucoure had scored 17 goals and assisted 12 in his 129 top-flight games across four seasons.
Doucoure left his family home for Rennes’ training centre aged 14 and after graduating through the club’s youth system – and a number of ‘B’ team outings in the French structure’s fourth tier – made a goalscoring debut in a Ligue 1 victory at Stade Brest in April 2013.
He overcame a knee problem the following season to play a significant role in the second half of the campaign, including Rennes’ passage to only a third French cup final in 43 years.
Doucoure was a regular first-team starter in the subsequent 18 months before transferring to Watford.
From the outset of 2014/15 until his exit during the following season he played 51 times in Ligue 1, netting five goals and assisting eight.
In 92 appearances (72 starts) for Rennes in all competitions Doucoure was on target 16 times in addition to creating 15 goals.
Doucoure claimed his sole France Under-21 cap against Belarus in March 2014 – former Everton loanee Kurt Zouma scoring the only goal of the game – maintaining his record of playing for his country at every age-group step from Under-17.
In 2010 he featured in a richly-talented France Under-17 side – Lucas Digne, Paul Pogba and Samuel Umtiti were all teammates – which reached the European Championship semi-finals in Liechtenstein.