Beni Baningime and the Other Young Talents at Everton’s Disposal

Beni Baningime

Everton’s academy is a successful one. Their U23’s won the Premier League 2 in 2016/17 and currently lead the race for the 2018/19 title, while the U18’s sit second in their respective league, two points behind rivals Liverpool but with a game in hand.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the Toffees boast an arsenal of talented youngsters striving to break into the first team. We’ve already seen several players earn a first-team place, with Tom Davies, Jonjoe Kenny and Mason Holgate featuring regularly. If you look back even further, you’ll find Ross Barkley, who was sold to Chelsea for £20 million and, going back even further to the noughties, there’s Wayne Rooney, arguably one of the Premier League’s all-time greats.

Who are the next generation of potential stars? A glance at Everton’s squad list will give you a vague idea, but here’s the cream of the current crop.

Beni Baningime and the Other Young Talents at Everton’s Disposal

Beni Baningime

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At the academy since the age of nine, Baningime is a Congolese centre-midfielder. He stands just over 5’10” and, despite playing only eight games for the senior side, he has drawn comparisons to N’Golo Kante and Sergio Busquets – two very different players. But just how can two distinctly different styles of play merge into one? It requires a player of high technical and physical ability, and that’s precisely what Baningime is.

Calm and comfortable on the ball, he favours the holding midfield role, and it’s clear as to why. He seems to have endless stamina and an uncanny ability to dispossess an attacker – Everton fans will hope he is the second coming of Idrissa Gueye – and he’s able to pick an accurate pass too. His positioning is very similar to that of Kante, breaking up attacks before they’ve really begun. What sets him out from other defensive-midfielders, though, is his ability to run with the ball. He appears to glide, moving forward with smooth, long strides, and always looking to start an attack. If he can break into the first team, he will likely become a household name in the Premier League.

Henry Onyekuru

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Although he has never actually appeared for the club, the Nigerian is regarded as one of Everton’s best prospects and, after recently being called up to his international team, he is now eligible for a work permit, which could spark a loan recall from Galatasaray.

The pacey forward can play through the middle or on the left, impressing at Anderlecht after scoring 31 goals in 57 games on the wing. He’s amassed six goals so far in Turkey, more than all of Everton’s strikers put together, and he would certainly fix the Toffees’ striker woes.

However, even if he remains in Turkey for the duration of his loan spell, he will still offer something in the future. The 21-year-old is confident with both feet and runs at players with pace. He is direct, skilful and never afraid to cut inside. He was on the radar of several European clubs, including Bayern Munich and AC Milan, until Everton snapped him up for just £7.2 million. If he can replicate his current form in the Premier League, then the Toffees will have got themselves a bargain.

João Virgínia

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When Everton signed the Portuguese keeper from Arsenal in 2018, most fans had no idea who he was. However, the reaction from Arsenal supporters provided some insight into how he was valued by the Gunners. Eventually, after some Googling, it became apparent that this was a very shrewd signing.

The stopper was an unused substitute for the majority of the U19’s European Championships in 2018, but was brought on in a semi-final against France. After a good performance, he started in the final and made seven saves to secure a 4-3 victory, including a triple save from a goalmouth scramble.

Everton’s goalkeeping coach, Hugo Olivera, was previously at Benfica, and has coached the likes of Jan Oblak, Ederson and Julio Cesar, so it’s clear to see that Virginia is in safe hands, and will have safe hands. It will be interesting to see if Virginia can usurp Jordan Pickford in the years to come.

Fraser Hornby

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Think Duncan Ferguson 2.0. As well as being trained and personally mentored by the Everton legend, the pair share quite a few similarities. They’re both Scottish, they are both target men, and they both have a knack for scoring goals.

He is already building his legacy for the Scotland national team. Six goals in seven appearances for the U21’s, including a hat-trick in a 3-0 win against Andorra. One of these was a fabulous finish from the halfway line and another a powerful drive from outside the box. He also scored both goals in a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands U21s, which is no mean feat.

Hornby joined Everton in 2014 from Northampton Town and has featured regularly for all levels up to the U23’s. However, he has only one start for the first team – against Apollon Limassol in the Toffees’ disappointing Europa League campaign of 2017/18. If he can begin to get consistent game time, perhaps on loan, then he may live up to the Duncan Ferguson comparisons, and maybe even surpass him. He certainly has the potential.

Ellis Simms

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Ellis Simms is something of a prodigy. Recently turning 18, he started his career at Manchester City’s academy, which is not something to be sniffed at. He found himself at both Sunderland and Blackburn U18’s before he joined Everton, which is where he really started to shine.

Despite a mediocre first season of 2017/18, which yielded four goals in 17 games for the Toffees’ U18s, 2018/19 has been his breakthrough year. Only ten matches into the season and already the striker has 18 goals and one assist. His efforts were clearly noticed as he was recently called up to the U23’s, where he scored in the Premier League International Cup against Brighton.

With the lack of a prolific striker at Everton, this may be the season he is called up to the first team squad. One thing is for certain, if he replicates his U18’s form for the first team, he will quickly become one of the most wanted strikers in Europe.

Anthony Gordon

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To be a regular for Everton U23’s at the age of 17 clearly means you are doing something right. Anthony Gordon is proving this. The attacking midfielder has attracted attention from Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Arsenal, and Dortmund reportedly made an offer of £10 million, which was rejected by the Toffees. All this attention came after his outstanding 2017/18 season, in which he scored 14 goals in 15 games and made four assists. The fact that he managed almost a goal-per-game from midfield showcases the amount of talent he possesses, and the type of player he could transform into.

When the attacking midfielder featured for Everton in the Europa League against Apollon Limassol, he was only 16, and he became the first player born this century to appear in the senior team. Everton fans will be hoping he can become the next Ross Barkley – without the sour ending, of course.

Nikola Vlašić

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A seemingly impulse signing from Europa League qualifying opponents Hajduk Split, Vlašić comes from a family of athletes. His sister, Blanka, is the Croatian record holder for the high jump and the former indoor World Champion. However, he is yet to replicate his sister’s success, instead failing to perform at Everton.

It has been on loan, however, that Vlašić has really started to show his true potential. The attacking midfielder, who can also play on the right, has mustered up four goals and two assists in 14 games for CSKA Moscow in the Russian League. In the Champions League, he has scored three and assisted two in just six appearances, including the deciding goal in a victory over holders Real Madrid.

He has also impressed for Croatia, scoring five in seven for the U21’s. The Croat has said himself that he expects Everton to sell him as soon as they get the chance:

“If you are bringing in players from Barcelona, there is no room for someone from Split”.

Only time will tell if the attacker was a smart tactical signing, or simply an impulse buy in a troubled era.

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