Everton striker Oumar Niasse says former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was interested in signing the him, prior to his sacking at Stamford Bridge. The 25-year-old scored 13 goals and made 10 assists in all competitions during the first half of the campaign for former club Lokomotiv Moscow, form that led to his Premier League move.
Niasse moved to Goodison Park for £13.5m (€17.2m), according to The Mirror, in the twilight of the winter transfer window. The forward is yet to make a start for the Toffees but is expected to provide support for top scorer Romelu Lukaku over the coming years.
After making his Everton debut against West Ham United, Niasse made a cameo appearance against Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-final win, during which Lukaku struck twice to send Roberto Martinez's side through. However, it could have been so different for Niasse, who would have moved to West London had Mourinho remained at the club.
"My manager told me Mourinho [then at Chelsea] was interested," Niasse said to The Guardian. "He said Mourinho liked the way I play and had been looking at me since I was in Turkey [with Akhisar Belediyespor]. He was very interested in me for this last transfer window but then he was sacked."
Chelsea's interest in Niasse makes for interesting reading given the lack of options the club have in attack. Alexandre Pato is still to make an appearance for the Blues since moving on loan, Radamel Falcao has not played since October due to injury. Diego Costa's imminent ban only highlights the shortage of forwards available.
Meanwhile, Niasse has only had brief exposure to the English top flight since his move to Everton and has been forced to play second fiddle to Lukaku, who took his tally for the season to 25 with the brace against former club Chelsea. The player is eager for an opportunity and says he is ready to fight for his place.
"I have to be on the pitch to know exactly what's going on in the Premier League," said the Senegal international. "When you don't start, you never know. I am a fighter. Football is not easy and just getting a professional contract means people must respect you because you have something.
"Even if it's one quality, you have it. When I feel very good, when I feel ready to play, the fans will see someone who always wants to have the ball, someone who always wants to win, someone who always wants to run. This kind of player is someone who is focused on fighting every time he has the shirt and is on the pitch. I am going to fight."