When Moise Kean was officially unveiled as an Everton player during the summer, the club’s director of football, Marcel Brands, also presented the striker’s mother with a jersey and vowed, “We will take care of your son.”
Isabelle Dehe could be forgiven for feeling more than a little let down right now.
Brands can hardly be held accountable for decisions taken on the field but Duncan Ferguson certainly wasn’t thinking about Kean’s welfare when he substituted him just 19 minutes after bringing him on during the second half of last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United.
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The caretaker manager’s decision has been the subject of heated debate, with John Arne Riise accusing Ferguson of having “destroyed that young player”.
However, as another former Liverpool defender, Jamie Carragher, pointed out on Monday Night Football on Sky Sports, a manager is entitled to make whatever calls he wants in pursuit of success.
Still, while the merits of Kean’s substitution remain open to discussion, one thing is beyond dispute: he didn’t deserve to be completely snubbed.
Ferguson insisted afterwards that he has no personal issue with Kean and he gave the attacker 45 minutes in Wednesday’s League Cup clash with Leicester but the way in which the Scot blanked the clearly stunned teenager as he walked off the pitch at Old Trafford suggested otherwise. Even Carragher conceded, “That’s where [Ferguson] made a mistake.”
Of course, even though he has re-energised the club with his admirable passion, the former Everton striker is unlikely to be given the job on a full-time basis, which is obviously no bad thing for Kean.
In addition, the likely appointment of fellow Italian Carlo Ancelotti should, in theory, boost the forward’s hopes of finally securing regular game time at Goodison Park.
However, there is no denying that Kean has issues to address.
Ferguson may have been responsible for his very public humiliation in Manchester, but the interim boss cannot be held accountable for the 19-year-old’s miserable spell on Merseyside so far.
It was always going to be tough for such a young player to quickly acclimatise to the Premier League and former Everton and France forward Louis Saha was among those to predict a long and tough period of transition.
“Kean is a great signing for Everton but he is going to need time to adapt,” the ex-Manchester United striker told bwin. “I can’t see him hitting the ground running.”
Saha wasn’t wrong.
Kean has started just twice in the Premier League and played just 349 minutes of top-flight football in total. There have been no goals and just two shots on target.
There has been little evidence of the explosive acceleration and lethal finishing which saw him score in six consecutive games for Juventus and Italy last season, either on the pitch or, Goal understands, in training.
There are mitigating circumstances, of course.
Firstly, as former Everton boss Marco Silva was at pains to point out in pleading for patience with Kean, the €30 million (£27m/$33m) signing didn’t have a proper pre-season.
He didn’t feature in a single friendly, either for Everton or Juve, meaning he was always going to need time to get up to speed.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Kean was not a Silva signing. The Portuguese hadn’t identified the Italian as a transfer target.
And nor had Brands, but the Dutchman decided to take a punt on Kean on the advice of super-agent Mino Raiola, who represents the youngster.
In that sense, there are obvious parallels with Mario Balotelli, another Raiola client.
In the final days of the summer transfer window in 2014, Liverpool were struggling to strengthen their attack, so manager Brendan Rodgers decided to take what he described to then captain Steven Gerrard as “a gamble”.
“Brendan paused before he spoke again,” the former midfielder later wrote in his book ‘My Story’. “‘The gamble is Mario Balotelli.’ My instant reaction was, ‘Uh-oh!’”
Kean, of course, shouldn’t have been such a risky buy, given his age and obvious potential. He has nothing like the same baggage as Balotelli either.
However, tardiness has been a persistent problem.
During the summer’s Under-21 European Championship in Italy, Kean and his close friend Nicolo Zaniolo were both dropped for the host nation’s final group game for repeatedly arriving late for team meetings.
Zaniolo reacted to the setback by getting his act together and forced his way into the senior squad thanks to his fine form at Roma this season.
Kean, by contrast, remains with the Under-21s because of his struggles at Everton, where he was recently fined for being late for a second team meeting.
Such behaviour smacks of unprofessionalism and is doing little to quell the mounting suspicion that he is not yet mature enough for the highest level.
Even when Roberto Mancini went to watch him play against Republic of Ireland in Dublin recently, Kean was sent off.
The Azzurri boss expressed some sympathy with the forward afterwards, given he had been dismissed for a fairly innocuous clash with Troy Parrott, but he tellingly added, “Moise is always involved. He needs to be more careful.”
In short, he needs to grow up. It obviously has to be remembered Kean is still only 19. He needs time and patience. He needs the support of the club.
But it’s also a two-way street. Ferguson may have been wrong to shun him as he did at Old Trafford but Kean could also do with asking himself why he was on the bench in the first place.
It’s clear that he hasn’t yet demonstrated the requisite level of discipline and dedication for an aspiring superstar.
Whoever takes over at Everton needs to make good on Brands’ promise to Kean’s mother to take care of her son. But it’s also perhaps time for Kean to start taking care of himself.