Lucas Digne’s invitable Everton situation after Brighton defeat as Chelsea, Newcastle and Inter all hover

The France international was left on the bench when Everton needed a goal and his departure looks more and more likely.

<p>Lucas Digne warms up. Picture: Chris Brunskill/Getty Images</p>

Lucas Digne warms up. Picture: Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

It's a situation that's dominated the headlines at Everton in recent weeks.

Since his omission against Arsenal almost a month ago, Lucas Digne's future had been widely discussed.

Amid a falling out with Toffees boss Rafa Benitez over tactics, there's been plenty of talk about Digne departing Goodison Park during this month's transfer window.

And the fact he was left twiddling his thumbs on the bench in the 3-2 loss at Brighton underlines a departure is now inevitable.

Digne was back among the substitutes for the Seagulls' visit, having not been involved at all for the previous three matches.

Yet Benitez opted to start two players have scarcely featured this season - even after a change of system.

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The Everton manager deployed a wing-back formation against Brighton - without a left-footer on the pitch.

Given Digne's attacking qualities, it's the sort of set-up he should thrive in. It’s the sort of set-up he’s craved, having reportedly grown frustrated his forward-thinking prowess has been curbed since Benitez’s arrival in the driving seat.

Yet even when chasing the game, Digne wasn't needed. Even after a welcome reception from the fans when warming up in the first half, Benitez didn't call on the former Barcelona full-back.

Even with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Salomon Rondon both on the pitch, Digne never once looked like he’d enter the fray.

Everton defender Lucas Digne. Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

In truth, it appears bridges are well and truly burnt. It’s difficult to see the issue being resolves.

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Jonjoe Kenny's been out of favour throughout the season.

Having failed to offload him in the summer, it's been clear that the academy graduate's days are numbered for some time.

At Chelsea, it was a matter of needs must why Kenny made his first Premier League start for more than a year.

Depleted numbers amid injuries and Covid-19 cases meant Kenny was handed an outing and, in fairness, displayed grit and heart in abundance in the 1-1 draw.

And it was Kenny's cross that teed-up Anthony Gordon to reduce the arrears for the second time in the Brighton defeat.

However, many would concur Kenny's short of what's required to be a regular at Everton.

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His first-half performance was well below par but improved after the break before coming off 13 minutes before the end.

It also meant that Seamus Coleman had to feature as an auxiliary left wing-back. It was another decision that the Toffees skipper had to feel the ramifications of.

Sections of supporters have been frustrated for some time how an additional right-back has not been recruited.

onjoe Kenny of Everton receives a yellow card from referee John Brooks during the Premier League match between Everton and Brighton & Hove Albion at Goodison Park on January 02, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

While Coleman's performances levels have wilted as he enters his twilight years, there's a feeling that his loyal decade-plus of service has been let down.

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To force him to play not only on the opposite flank but as a wing-back was never going to work. The energy, work rate and desire were there - but the required quality wasn't.

Come the end of the game, it was Ben Godfrey - primarily a centre-back - who was tasked with marauding up and down the flank following a switch to a four-man rearguard.

Many fans inside would have liked to have seen Digne come on at half-time. With Everton 2-0 down, they needed proven adept talents with experience.

A regular for France, Digne is widely recognised as one of the best left-backs in the Premier League - if not the world.

Since his arrival at Goodison Park in 2018 from Barcelona, only Trent Alexander-Arnold has whipped in more crosses in the Premier League.

To leave a player of Digne's calibre on the bench when pushing for a result underlines a departure is virtually on the card. The likes of Chelsea, Newcastle and Inter Milan supposed admirers.

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With Vitaliy Mykolenko watching from the Goodison stands after completing his move from Dynamo Kiev yesterday, a replacement has already been sought.

In truth, had Everton had more players available to face Brighton, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if Digne was again left out of the squad. Alas, he was on the bench - but ultimately to fill the numbers.

Everton will now be hoping to net the correct price for Digne.

There's been talk of a loan move but, aged 29, any switch has to be either permanent or with an obligation to buy in the summer.