Michael Keane began his career at Manchester United and made just one senior appearance before moving to Burnley, where he became one of the best young center backs in England. Now at Everton, the four-time England international’s development has stagnated.
In 2014, Turf Moor was home to Michael Keane, the man primed to defend England’s goal alongside John Stones for the foreseeable future on the international stage. Four years later, the ex-Burnley standout now plies his trade for ninth-placed Everton, who sit six points behind Keane’s former club in the Premier League. The formidable center back’s career has seen many ups and downs, including a transfer away from Manchester United before he could break into the first team.
The 25-year-old moved to Goodison Park from Burnley for £25 million and has not lived up to his price tag for Sam Allardyce and his team. Unfortunately for Keane, Ronald Koeman sidetracked his development early in the season. The Barcelona legend wanted the Manchester-born defender to develop technically, and his defensive capabilities suffered as a result. Formerly regarded as a wall at the back when he donned the claret and blue of Burnley, the 6-foot-3 defender has fallen greatly out of favor for club and country since his big-money move.
Keane’s defensive statistics have generally decreased or stayed the same since he moved, just as his overall performance has. Last season for Burnley, he averaged 7.4 clearances, 1.8 interceptions, 0.8 tackles, and just 0.4 fouls committed per game. This term, the Englishman has made just 6.7 clearances, two interceptions, 1.1 tackles, and 0.7 fouls committed. The most telling statistical change is his rating: he averaged a 7.13 rating in each of the past two seasons, but this year, that has dropped to 6.87.
His 6.87 rating does not match the performance level Everton expected when he signed for the Toffees. In the Europa League, his already poor rating drops to just 5.94. The Toffees also have a -14 goal differential and the four teams behind them in the table have a better difference.
Aside from his stagnation in development and poor form, Keane still manages to be a rather imposing presence in the air. He wins 3.9 aerial duels per game, the 22nd-most in the Premier League. Under Koeman’s rule earlier this season, the Dutch manager tried to make the technically deficient Brit into his reincarnation. Given Keane’s poor career pass completion rate of 76%, the ex-Everton boss should have foreseen that making the Manchester United product into a top-tier ball-playing center back was going to be tough.
Now under the traditionally English managerial style of Allardyce, Keane looks primed to end the season on a high note going into the World Cup. England manager Gareth Southgate handed the defender all four of his caps, and if he and Allardyce work together for the remainder of the club season, he could have an outside chance for a spot in England’s World Cup squad.
The Three Lions’ central defense now consists of Chris Smalling, John Stones, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, and a past-prime Gary Cahill. Keane will have to battle with Maguire and Cahill for a spot if Southgate decides to take four center backs to Russia, and the Everton defender will need to get back to his best form to ensure a spot in England’s 23-man roster for the biggest tournament on the planet.