- September 20, 1989
Idrissa Gana Gueye joined Everton on a four-year deal in August 2016.
The Senegal international completed a move from Aston Villa, having spent one season with the Midlands club after forging a reputation as one of the finest young midfield players in France.
Gana made 134 appearances for Ligue 1 side Lille, having emerged from the Diambars Academy in Senegal which was founded by Patrick Vieira and other footballers of African heritage.
He made his breakthrough for Lille in 2010, contributed to their Ligue 1 title success in 2011 and established himself as a regular starter over the following four seasons, during which the French side competed in two Champions League campaigns.
His move to England in July 2015 brought 38 appearances for Villa and, despite his side’s relegation, only Leicester’s Premier League-winning midfielder, N’Golo Kante, made more interceptions and tackles combined across Europe’s top five leagues.
On arrival at Goodison Park, Gana had been capped on 32 occasions by Senegal. He also represented his country at the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
He enjoyed an outstanding first season with Everton, with his all-action and combative style of play in the heart of midfield immediately making him a firm fans’ favourite.
Such was his consistency, he was named runner-up in the Player of the Season vote at the end of the season, narrowly missing out to top scorer Romelu Lukaku.
He started every Premier League match aside from one – when he sat out the defeat at Stamford Bridge in January through suspension – up until his departure to the Africa Cup of Nations at the start of January.
The N’Golo Kante comparisons were quick to come too, a logical observation given both players’ similar physique and on-field attributes. A statistic often referenced was Gana’s tackling record and, by the season’s conclusion, he had topped that chart with 135 in the Premier League, seven more than Kante who was crowned the PFA Player of the Year.
Gana wasn’t signed to score goals but his maiden Everton strike against Sunderland in February was worth waiting for – a blockbuster of a finish after a precise cut-back from Seamus Coleman.