Everton are already reaping the benefit of the decision to bring Demarai Gray back to England after the winger scored his second goal in as many Premier League games on Saturday.
He had once been a regular for Leicester until his career there seemed to peter out last season, before a move to Bayer Leverkusen took him to Germany in January for only around £2.7m.
Just 10 Bundesliga appearances later and eyebrows were raised when Everton paid even less than that to make him one of new manager Rafa Benitez’s first signings in July. But so far Gray has proven to be a very shrewd acquisition for Everton.
It feels like he has been around for a very long time – he became a regular for Birmingham in the Championship back in 2014 – yet Gray is still only 25 and potentially still shy of his peak.
Perhaps unexpectedly, he has now started all three of Everton’s Premier League games so far this season and has scored important goals in two of them.
His strike against Brighton set the ball rolling for a dominant win and showcased perfectly what he is capable of. Gray had been bright and lively before he scored, yet it was the way he collected the ball and drove in a more or less straight line towards the goal that is particularly noteworthy.
He was faced up Brighton defender Adam Webster, who was cautious about committing to a tackle and tried to show Gray to the outside onto his weaker left foot. But that didn’t phase the Everton man and once he reached the penalty area he took the shot with his left across the goal, finding the bottom corner and giving his team a lead they never relinquished.
That kind of pace and drive with or without the ball is a huge asset, whether a team is taking the game to an opponent, looking to break on the counter attack, or defending a lead and looking for a ball carrier to relieve pressure by running down the clock. Everton also picked up Andros Townsend on a free transfer in the summer and he is having a similarly positive impact.
The break away from the spotlight appears to have done Gray the world of good, almost like it has allowed him to take a breath and reset, before starting afresh with a new challenge.
Everton have spent a lot of big money on players who have disappointed over the last few years, but perhaps one of their best signings now is someone who cost less than £2m.