Leighton Baines was one of a kind and replacing him was going to be a monumental challenge.
However, bringing Lucas Digne to fill the giant void left by a club icon is perhaps Everton's greatest transfer success of the Farhad Moshiri era.
Sure, it's been well-documented that some of the Toffees signings in the last five-and-a-half years have ranged from erroneous to disastrous but, when faced with their most difficult test, Everton passed with flying colours.
It was on the final day of the 2019-20 season, in a home game against Bournemouth that Digne embraced Baines and patted the number three on the back. Soon after, it was confirmed the hug was a changing of the left-back guard as Baines announced his retirement.
After scoring 39 goals in 420 games for Everton, the Kirkby-born star deserved a greater farewell than a 3-1 defeat by an already-relegated Cherries in an empty Goodison Park but Baines called time on his terms.
Since then, the transition has been pretty seamless.
Baines is badly missed, he’s one of the greatest players to have worn the royal blue shirt. However, Digne plays with such a consistency and drive that fans remember Baines simply for all of his top moments, as opposed to remembering him because they are constantly yearning for him to be back in the team.
It was on this day in 2018 that Digne arrived on Merseyside in an £18m deal.
Having just turned 25, the energetic wing-back was a France international who had appeared regularly at the top of the European game with Barcelona, Roma, Paris Saint-Germain and Lille.
Digne joined with an impressive reputation and his quality shone through immediately.
During Baines’ 13 years at Everton, he regularly pushed some of the world’s best midfielders in the chances created charts and was an assist king.
However, in terms of setting goals up, Digne is right up there. While Baines recorded 53 assists, the Frenchman already has 18 in the Premier League.
As well, in three years, Digne has created 32 big chances, more than half the tally Baines managed (63). Baines put in a whopping 2,331 crosses and Digne has fired across 765. Two players regularly producing ridiculous numbers.
The former ruled from the spot too. Baines hammered 26 penalties into the back of the net for Everton, missing only three.
He could also rifle home a free-kick. Newcastle away, Swansea away, Portsmouth away.
Then there was the 119th minute strike in the FA Cup against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. And who could forget his double at Upton Park? He hit the top corner just after the hour mark and then found the opposite one seven minutes from time. Two free-kicks, both curled in exquisitely.
Digne is equally adept when the ball is still and can whack them in from distance. There was the 96th minute winner curler to snatch a draw against Watford and an absolute rocket at Lincoln City.
The pair each boast magical wands and the wizardry that comes from their left boot is spellbinding.
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Digne thumped one in during a 5-1 rout of Burnley and in the League Cup, during Baines’ final season, he banged home a leveller against Leicester in the League Cup which took the roof off Goodison Park during Duncan Ferguson’s interim spell in charge.
The crossover from Baines to Digne was expertly done.
Identifying and landing the left-back from Barcelona as the man to take the mantle was a masterstroke. From his constant running up and down the wing, to his technical attributes, Digne shared so many traits with Baines.
Slowly, the younger player became the regular starter and the elder pro was then utilised when needed.
By the time Baines decided to hang his boots up, Everton had already settled in the new man.
That has to be the plan for the current right-back situation.
Seamus Coleman signed a new deal until 2023 this week while the Toffees search for a new full-back. Turning 33 in October, the skipper is entering the final stages of his career and really, he should now be the full-back deputy behind a new signing.
The Blues absolutely nailed it when they planned for life after their idolised left-back and will hopefully repeat the trick on the opposite side of the pitch this summer.
Nobody will ever replace Leighton Baines, but in Lucas Digne, Everton got as close as humanly possible.
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