AS the third most expensive signing in Everton’s history, Oumar Niasse arrived in English football a year ago amid much fanfare.
The Senegalese striker, fresh from being named Russia’s Player of the Year for his goalscoring exploits with Lokomotiv Moscow, was expected to link-up with Romelu Lukaku and form a partnership capable of terrorising Premier League defences.
Twelve months on, however, and Niasse is on loan at Hull City, having spent the past five months training with the Under-23s at Goodison Park after new manager Ronald Koeman made it clear last summer that the £13.5m signing was not part of his first-team plans.
“It is not easy for a player in this situation,” admitted the 26-year-old ahead of tomorrow’s trip to leaders Chelsea.
“When I arrived in England, I was in a good moment from Russia but it has been difficult. That is football, that is life. Everything cannot always be perfect.
“But I will not regret joining Everton. And I cannot be angry about Everton. They gave me a big opportunity to play in the Premier League and I learned a lot of things. If I had the decision (to sign for Everton) again, I would do it again.”
Niasse’s magnanimous attitude towards the Toffees suggests a decency in someone who had spells in Norway, France and then Russia before arriving in England at the start of last year.
What regular observers of Russian football most remember Niasse for, though, is a tenacious spirit and ability to unsettle even the calmest of defences.
Marco Silva’s task is to elicit those type of performances and banish the memory of a miserable spell on Merseyside that amounted to just 152 minutes on the pitch.
“I came to England to prove myself in the best league in the world,” added Hull’s new loanee. “If you want to be a good player and show you are, you have to prove it here.
“That is still my main target and why I didn’t want to leave. In the summer, I had a lot of opportunities outside of England but I decided to stay because I wanted to prove myself here.
“I am confident I can score goals in the Premier League. I am here for that and to help the team. I will always give my best.”
Niasse is not the first former Lokomotiv Moscow striker to be signed by Hull in the hope he can help keep the club up.
Dame N’Doye, like Niasse a Senegal international, was brought in by Steve Bruce on deadline day in the January window two years ago.
He went on to net five goals in 15 league appearances but it wasn’t enough to stave off relegation.
“I know him very well,” said Niasse, when asked about his countryman, who is now at Trabzonspor in Turkey.
“Before he came here, we played together for six months with Lokomotiv Moscow. The team was in the same situation as it is now.
“It wasn’t easy for him but he did what he could. This is a challenge for me as well. I have to fight to help the team to stay in the Premier League.
“That was the challenge for Dame N’Doye and it is the challenge for me. I will do my best for the team.”
Niasse’s debut for the Tigers came via a late cameo from the bench in last weekend’s timely 3-1 win over Bournemouth.
If he gets any action tomorrow at Stamford Bridge, it is likely to be a similar story with the 26-year-old admitting his fitness has suffered following Koeman’s decision to banish predecessor Roberto Martinez’s final signing to train with the kids at Everton.
Asked if his confidence levels had also taken a hit, Niasse replied: “I am a football player from Africa and I know if you really want to be a big player you have to give it everything.
“It was difficult but I had to focus on training with the Under-23s, playing every game and travelling with them. I don’t know (Koeman’s reasoning). I didn’t ask. He told me what he had to say and I said, ‘Thank you’. That is all.
“It is just a choice he made. When someone tells you that you are not in their plans, you just have to deal with that. I continued to train every day. There is no bitterness, no way. He made the choice. It wasn’t a good choice and I have to prove it wasn’t a good choice. I am at Hull City to do that.”
Hull did ask Everton about Niasse last summer but things got no further than that initial inquiry.
Eventually, Will Keane and Dieumerci Mbokani were brought in by Silva’s predecessor Mike Phelan but injury and poor form mean neither has yet been a success in the East Riding.
Hence Silva’s determination to bring in another striker along with Porto playmaker Evandro and Omar Elabdellaoui, who is eligible to face Chelsea tomorrow following his loan switch from Olympiacos.
All three new faces will be given the rudest of Premier League awakenings thanks to City’s next three opponents after leaders Chelsea being Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
For Niasse, this quartet will be a big step up from his only senior appearance in an Everton shirt this season – October’s 2-1 loss to League Two Cheltenham Town in the Checkatrade Trophy.
“With the big teams you have to not concede a goal early,” said the striker, when asked what will be key for Hull tomorrow. “When that happens, you can take confidence and start to think about something more positive.
“We need our strikers to run in behind them, to make it difficult and to give them a problem. We have to stay compact and play our football.”