Tom Davies’ Everton future: does he need a January exit to fulfil his promising potential?

The academy product’s Goodison career has somewhat stagnated and he was in the spotlight for the wrong reasons against Manchester United.

Everton midfielder Tom Davies. Picture: Alex Pantling/Getty Images

It'll be a "what if" moment that Everton fans will reflect upon for years to come.

Whenever the Toffees visit Manchester United in the future, flashbacks will be vivid.

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Depleted Everton were excellent against a Red Devils side who could afford to have Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Jadon Sancho on the bench.

A 1-1 draw was more than deserved but it could well have been three points.

Had Tom Davies shot with the goal at his mercy, rather than squaring to Yerry Mina - who was ruled offside - then the Blues could have recorded just a second win at Old Trafford since 1992.

Neither manager Rafa Benitez nor Andros Townsend pointed the finger at Davies during post-match media duties. Both felt he'd made the correct decision.

Yerry Mina’s goal for Everton at Manchester United was ruled offside. Picture: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Perhaps not being a goal-getting midfielder influenced his decision. Maybe, as some supporters have theorised, it was a lack of confidence.

But, in truth, the decision almost typified Davies' present situation at Goodison. At a crossroads.

Emerging onto the scene

There have previously been, and some will understandably still hold them, high hopes for the academy product.

He truly emerged onto the scene as a 17-year-old when scoring and earning man of the match in a 4-0 thrashing of Man City before becoming Everton's youngest captain aged 20 years and 60 days in August 2018.

It was less than a year ago when he was thriving as a defensive midfielder under Carlo Ancelotti, helping the Blues defeat Liverpool 2-0 - a first win at Anfield since 1999.

What's more, he has been a regular at England youth level throughout his career, starting ahead of Liverpool’s Curtis Jones and Crystal Palace’s on-loan Chelsea star Conor Gallagher at the under-21s European Championships earlier this year.

For someone who's still only 23 and made 156 appearances for Everton is an outstanding achievement.

Even still, Davies seems to be coming to a crucial juncture, with his burgeoning progress somewhat stagnating.

Tom Davies celebrates scoring his first Everton goal against Man City in January 2017. Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Summer uncertainty

With Benitez coming in to replace Real Madrid-bound Ancelotti in the summer, it's subsequently proven to be somewhat of an unsettling time for Davies.

There were reports during that transfer window that Benitez was keen to reunite with Sean Longstaff, having worked together at Newcastle, and that Davies could be sent the other way.

Then, after the August 31 cut-off point, The Athletic claimed that the West Derby-raised midfielder had been made available for transfer - but he instead opted to fight for his place.

Nevertheless, such a precarious situation doesn't help any player never mind someone as young as Davies as his boyhood club.

Pecking order

After rebuffing an exit, Davies has so far been on the periphery of Benitez's plans.

That's mainly down to the outstanding form of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan.

The former has arguably been the Toffees' player-of-the-season so far and fans are rightfully clamouring that he deserves a call-up to the France squad in the near future.

Allan, meanwhile, is demonstrating why he was purchased for a fee of around £20 million.

With Benitez deploying a two-man midfield, it means there's no room for Davies.

Abdoulaye Doucoure celebrates scoring for Everton against Norwich. Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

He's been in reserve along with Andre Gomes, with the pair making three substitute appearances in the league.

Davies' two starts were both in the Carabao Cup, with his performance in the penalty shootout loss to QPR coming under scrutiny from sections of supporters.

January decision

It comes into the question, then, if Davies might depart during the January transfer window. It might sound a long way off but it’ll soon creep up.

Several facets will have to be considered.

First of all, there has to be interest from elsewhere otherwise he'll be staying put.

Given the number of games he's racked up in the top flight, you'd be surprised if suitors would not hover. Crystal Palace were linked with Davies only last week.

Injuries may dictate if Benitez would even contemplate a departure. Fabian Delph remains sidelined with a shoulder injury, Jean-Philippe Gbamin has only just recovered from a thigh problem and Gomes is out with a calf setback.

Then it might come down whether it's a loan deal or a permanent exit.

With Davies' contract expiring in 2023, Everton are still in a reasonable bargaining position. Anyone would have to match or come near to their valuation.

But a loan for the remainder of the campaign where Davies will be guaranteed regular minutes could be deemed prudent.

Look, for example, at how spells away from Merseyside helped Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley in their respective careers.

Time away from Everton could rejuvenate Davies.

Could Everton get better?

The caveat to anyone who'd want to see Davies offloaded is this: could Everton get someone in his current remit that's an improvement?

As long as they're fit and firing, Doucoure and Allan will be the preferred pairing. It'd take someone arriving for a substantial fee to dislodge either.

So then we're onto back-ups - because every side needs them.

Currently in reserve are Gomes, Gbamin and Delph.

Jean-Philippe Gbamin in action for Everton. Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

All will be on higher wages than Davies. As per Sportrac, Davies is estimated to be earning £25,000 per week. Gomes is supposedly on around £110,000, Delph nets £80,000 and Gbamin collects £65,000.

With Everton still restricted by financial fair play rules, it would, perhaps, be pragmatic to shift one of those three on instead and free up funds.

In addition, Davies is three years younger than Gbamin, five the junior of Gomes and Delph is eight years his senior.

That means he's still got time to develop and fulfil the potential he demonstrated earlier in his career.

Given how Benitez has ensured Doucoure, Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend thrive, Davies could benefit from similar hands-on coaching.