Nikola Vlašić targets West Ham United victory on Everton return
West Ham United return to Premier League action on Sunday and for one player in particular a trip to Goodison Park will be of greater significance.
Nikola Vlašić was just 19 when he joined Everton from his hometown club Hajduk Split in August 2017, having emerged as a teenage sensation and already made his senior debut for his national side, Croatia.
While he possessed far more experience – and talent – than most teenage players arriving from overseas, and he scored on his home debut in a UEFA Europa League tie with Cypriot opponents Apollon Limassol, the young Vlašić fell victim to a change of manager and consequently saw his opportunities limited in an Everton shirt.
I have good memories with Everton, but now I hope I will go there with West Ham and we will win this game
Signed by Ronald Koeman after impressing for Hajduk against Everton in the Europa League qualifiers, he started three of the Blues’ opening six Premier League games but, after the Dutchman departed in October 2017, his replacement Sam Allardyce started him just four more times that season. Soon after Allardyce had himself been replaced by Marco Silva in the summer of 2018, the young attacking midfielder departed on loan to Russian club CSKA Moscow.
There, he made up for lost time, fulfilling his undoubted potential across four outstanding seasons with CSKA – his move was made permanent in June 2019 – by scoring 33 goals and assisting 21 more and winning the Russian Premier League Footballer of the Year award last year.
At the same time, Vlašić established himself in the Croatia national team, scoring against Scotland at UEFA Euro 2020, and attracting the attention of David Moyes and culminating in a move to London Stadium at the end of August.
As he prepares to return to Merseyside, the 24-year-old looks back fondly on his time at Everton, but like any good professional, has no room for sentimentality once the game kicks-off.
“I have good memories with Everton, but now I hope I will go there with West Ham and we will win this game,” he told whufc.com. “It’s always good memories and a good feeling to play there.
“Goodison Park is a difficult place to go. The fans are really loud, and they are helping their all the game so it’ll be hard for us, but I think all the players here are used to that atmosphere. It’s hard at every away game, so there shouldn’t be any problems with that.”
For Vlašić and West Ham, Sunday’s game represents an opportunity not just to return to winning ways after losing out to a last-minute goal at home to Brentford before the international break, but also to leapfrog Everton and potentially climb back into the Premier League’s top six.
“After the last game we lost against Brentford, I think we need a good game and to win three points to be back on a good track,” the No11 confirmed.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far, but I think I need to get more used to the Club, the players and everything around the city, so I think it’ll be even better in the future.”