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Klaassen has just exposed a problem Everton haven’t solved since his exit

One of the most surreal – and baffling – sights for Evertonians at this World Cup so far has been former Blues midfielder Davy Klaassen bossing the Netherlands’ matches as a dynamic attacking midfielder, writes the LiverpoolEcho.

With a goal against Senegal in the opening game, making a determined run to slam in a rebound and seal a 2-0 victory, Klaassen set the Dutch on course for topping Group A and followed that up with assists for Cody Gakpo’s goals in the 1-1 draw with Ecuador and 2-0 win over Qatar, a fixture in which he received the man-of-the-match award.

The reward for Klaassen and company is a second round tie against the USA on Saturday as they look to book their place in the last eight, but should such impressive displays actually come as a surprise? Appearances can be deceptive with him though.

His balding pate gave the impression that he was older than his age of just 24 when he arrived at Goodison Park in a £23.6million deal back in 2017 but while the likes of Everton’s ‘Prodigal Son’ Wayne Rooney – one of a trio of ‘number 10s’ snapped up by the club that summer alongside Klaassen and Gylfi Sigurdsson – famously chose to have a hair transplant, being follicly-challenged in such a fashion never did the likes of Bobby Charlton any harm.

Klaassen never really had any locks to lose but keeping with the Biblical references, he seemed to suffer a Samson-like weakening of his strength from the moment he pulled on a royal blue jersey. Back home in the Netherlands, he is affectionately known as ‘Kaasstengel’ (cheese straw) due to his slight build but such was his seeming unsuitability to inhabiting the rough and tumble of the engine room when playing in midfield for a Premier League side, Everton supporters could be forgiven for fearing that he might snap.

Despite a record-breaking spending spree that summer, flaws in recruitment – the aforementioned acquisition of three players who inhabited a similar position followed by Nikola Vlasic, but no like-for-like replacement for Romelu Lukaka after Olivier Giroud’s late change of heart – ensured Klaassen came into a very difficult situation as things quickly unravelled for a much-changed Everton squad and their manager. It didn’t seem to matter who was in the Goodison dugout though, whether it was his compatriot Ronald Koeman, caretaker boss David Unsworth or Sam Allardyce, he resembled a lost soul in the English game with a lack of pace or power ensuring that matches just passed him by.

With translations back and forth for questions and answers, press conferences for fixtures in UEFA competitions can often be confusing but on one such occasion, ahead of a Europa League trip to face Atalanta in Bergamo, Klaassen – already resembling something of a rabbit caught in the headlights – was asked whether he was happy with the start he had made at Everton. It seemed to be an enquiry about the player’s personal form but he replied by referring to the team as if he was blind to the struggles that many others saw as obvious from the start.

In the end, it seemed no coincidence that Klaassen never once completed a 90 minute game of Premier League football. Failing to score in 16 matches for the Blues, only seven of those appearances were in the Premier League and a mere three were starts.

It was he and Rooney who both made way in a double substitution for Tom Davies and match-winner Oumar Niasse 10 minutes into the second half of a home game with Bournemouth on September 23 that proved to be Koeman’s last victory and Klaasen’s final Premier League start. After that, he’d only be picked from the kick-off for the 5-1 home drubbing against Atalanta and 3-0 dead rubber success at Apollon Limassol, both in a Europa League competition in which he reached the final the previous season with Ajax.

Between the Bournemouth game and final home match of the season against Southampton on May 5, Klaassen featured in just six minutes of Premier League football at the end of a 2-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on March 10, so even with Allardyce dismissed at the end of the campaign and replaced by the seemingly more-progressive Marco Silva, a coach who would appear to be better-suited to getting the best out of the Dutchman’s technical ability, it came as no surprise when he was sold and at a loss of over £10million in the space of just a year.

For most of Klaassen’s career though he has possessed a threat in the final third and it’s his short and not-so-sweet spell at Everton that remains the anomaly. He netted 20 goals for Ajax in the final season before he joined the Blues and after exiting Goodison Park, he had scoring returns of seven and nine in his two full seasons in Germany at Werder Bremen.

Now back at Ajax for a second spell, he’s hit double figures (15 and 11) in his first two full seasons back and has four goals in 20 matches so far this term. His record at international level – 10 goals in 38 appearances – also shows why he remains one of the most-trusted lieutenants of Louis van Gaal, a legendary coach dubbed ‘The Iron Tulip’ who certainly doesn’t indulge many shrinking violets.

While Klaassen remains one of the most-dramatic failures at Everton in recent years, he’s certainly not alone when it comes to being underwhelming for them during this time, which begs the question as to why so many football figures have often found themselves to be shadows of their former – and future – selves when representing the Blues.