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02nd Sep 2019

The ‘alarm bells’ in Graeme Souness’ head do not justify his ignorance of Moise Kean

"In a grossly unjustified and ignorant attack on Moise Kean's character, Souness made a series of needless innuendos about how and why the Italian ended up at Goodison Park."

Nooruddean Choudry

You really do have to question his attitude

Sometimes the truth is a difficult pill to swallow. As much as we want to ignore it and maintain a surface level of cordiality, it becomes impossible to avoid the elephant in the room. Thankfully, there are always brave and vital voices of reason who will cut through the bullshit and say it as it is.

On Sunday, we were all quietly thinking the same thing, as we shifted uncomfortably in our seats whilst watching Sky’s coverage of Everton vs Wolves. Points were made and truth bombs were dropped. And it became strikingly apparent that yes, we did have to question his attitude.

We had every right to call out a shocking lack of professionalism, and ask that most glaring of questions: why wasn’t Graeme Souness doing his job properly?

In a grossly unjustified and ignorant attack on Moise Kean’s character, Souness made a series of needless innuendos about how and why the Italian ended up at Goodison Park. In the place of hard facts and any actual knowledge, he relied solely on the “alarm bells” going off in his head.

It was maddening to witness and makes even worse viewing after the event. Indeed Souness’ lack of awareness – both of himself and the player – was startling. This is a man who is paid to know about football and discuss it with authority; it is meant to be his vocation. He has even played in Serie A.

And yet he didn’t seem to know a jot about one of the most exciting young prospects in Europe. A player who has represented the Italian national team at every level from under-15s to the senior squad. A player who was signed not from some obscure third-tier outfit in Estonia but fucking Juventus.

That seemed to be the crux of Souness’ fuzzy logic. He couldn’t work out why Juve would let such a prodigious talent go for what could amount to £39m. So he filled the gaps in his knowledge with the assumption that Kean must be a problem character off the field. Based on nothing but his own mean spirit.

If Souness had done any sort of research – or boasted a basic knowledge of European football – he’d know that Juventus were keen to lighten their wage bill to comply with FFP after welcoming back Gonzalo Higuain and adding the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot to the ongoing cost of Cristiano Ronaldo’s services.

He’d also be aware that Juventus – who are the continent’s masters at picking up free agents – were acutely aware that Kean had less than a year to go on his current deal. This made the prospect of selling him for up to £40m to (with all due respect) a team who aren’t an immediate rival a hugely tempting prospect.

As for any buyback clause, Souness should’ve known that although Kean’s contract situation meant Juve were in no position to demand such a stipulation, they do have a great relationship with Everton which reportedly includes a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to match any future offer for the player.

But Souness was blissfully unaware of any of that. He instead offered such pearls of wisdom as “I think there will be other issues there. I don’t know…” and “It seems as if Juventus are saying ‘we don’t care about how good he’s going to be, go on you can take him'”. And the loaded “something is not quite right.”

In an act of breathtaking mental agility, the 66-year-old pundit went on to compare Kean to Emmanuel Adebayor for some reason, suggesting that Juventus had let the teenager go for the same sort of reasons that Arsene Wenger had happily surrendered Adebayor to Manchester City.

Funny that Souness didn’t choose to make the far more pertinent comparisons of Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira – two Wenger charges who actually signed from Serie A superclubs as youngsters just like Kean. Both went on to become world-class performers with no personality defects to speak of.

Nor did Souness choose to make any veiled accusations about Wolves’ Patrick Cutrone – another exciting youngster who left another Italian giant for another ambitious top half Premier League club. He was also playing on Sunday, but didn’t pique the pundit’s suspicions in quite the same way.

There is another troubling element to the targeting of Kean that goes beyond ignorance. Kean is a player who notoriously suffered racial abuse during his time in Italy. Not only that, but his senior teammate Leonardo Bonucci chose to castigate rather than support him following the most high-profile incident.

Bonucci claimed that Kean deserved “50-50 of the blame” for celebrating in front of the Cagliari fans who’d given him racist abuse all game and reacted to his goal with intensified venom. Bonucci’s remarks pointed to Kean having an attitude problem that in some way encouraged or deserved the abuse.

Fast forward to this weekend, and again Kean’s personality is coming under scrutiny for no apparent reason.

Of course Souness would be rightly outraged if anyone was to suggest that race played even an unknowing part in his comments about Kean. He’d refute such accusations as grossly unfair slurs upon his person. And yet it is absolutely fine for him to damage the reputation of a promising teenager for no apparent reason? Something is not quite right.