Why Everton should recall Joao Virginia from loan in January
According to the Liverpool Echo, Everton could be set to recall young goalkeeper Joao Virginia from his loan spell at Reading, with the report revealing that the Toffees had inserted a recall clause in the loan agreement.
However, as per the report, Everton can only trigger the recall clause in a defined period when the transfer window reopens in January, and they won’t have the entire month at their disposal to make a move.
Born in Faro, Portugal, Joao Virginia started his footballing education at Benfica in his homeland before moving across the continent to join Arsenal in 2015.
The highly-rated shot-stopper made 41 appearances for the Gunners across various age-group levels, largely U-18 and U-23, but he never really managed to make the grade in the club’s senior ranks.
Everton offered him an escape route and Joao Virginia made a big impact for the Toffees’ U-23 side in the previous campaign following his move to Goodison Park from North London last summer.
The 20-year-old carded as many as 9 clean sheets in 13 appearances for the club’s U-23 side in the previous campaign, shipping only 7 goals in the process, and was instrumental as David Unsworth’s side bagged the Premier League 2 title and also the Premier League International Cup.
Having enjoyed a fruitful campaign at the U-23 level last term, the talented Portuguese U-21 international was loaned out to Championship outfit Reading in the summer to further his development under the guidance of his compatriot Jose Manuel Gomes.
To that end, though, things have been far from ideal for Joao Virginia at the Madejski Stadium, with the Portuguese starlet currently lost in the cold after being frozen out of the playing eleven by new manager Mark Bowen following the dismissal of Gomes in October.
As a matter of fact, the 20-year-old has even failed to make the matchday squads on eight occasions, with Bowen now favouring Sam Walker as the designated understudy to former Napoli shot-stopper Rafael Cabral.
Virginia started Reading’s first two league fixtures against Sheffield Wednesday and Hull City early in August, both of which ended in defeats, but his only game time thereafter has come in the Carabao Cup fixture against Wolves in late September.
The youngster has struggled to displace Cabral, who is definitely a more experienced and accomplished shot-stopper at the senior level, and Everton could be forced to recall him from his loan spell if his playtime doesn’t improve between now and January.
A loan spell at some Championship club to gain some much-needed professional exposure was always going to be the next big step in Virginia’s development after he proved last season that he is way too good to ply his trade with the U-23 side.
With that in mind, a temporary move to Reading looked like a fair settlement earlier in the summer and the stage looked pretty much set for Joao Virginia to enjoy a fruitful loan spell after he started back-to-back games in the Championship in August.
However, he has slipped way down the pecking order at the Madejski Stadium and it is hard to see how he could possibly regain his place, unless, of course, Rafael Cabral is damned to a long spell on the sidelines due to an injury.
To put things into perspective, Everton should not hesitate to exercise the recall clause in the 20-year-old’s loan agreement given that it hardly makes sense for the youngster to spend time away from his parent club if he doesn’t play enough games.
Joao Virginia is a real talent with a lot of potential but he needs regular playtime and exposure to work on the flaws in his game and hone his skills to a certain extent before he is ready to stake a claim for a place in the Premier League.
Hence, Everton should make it a point to recall him in January and possibly arrange another loan spell elsewhere, even if it means dropping down to League One, given that the prospect of playing regularly should be of paramount importance at this stage of his career.
With veteran Maarten Stekelenburg looking set for an exit in January (Football Insider h/t Liverpool Echo) and Jonas Lossl failing to mount any sort of challenge for undisputed No.1 Jordan Pickford, someone like Joao Virginia could have a big part to play for Everton in the years to come, but the process of transition from the academy to the senior ranks is not so straightforward.
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Constantly sitting on the sidelines and warming the benches at Reading is only going to stall his development and Everton should be careful with how they handle the starlet. Virginia has loads of potential and the Toffees need to decide quickly as to what is best for his development.