Everton starlet Nikola Vlasic has revealed the Toffees did not let him choose the number 19 shirt when he arrived from Hajduk Split because they were keeping it free for Diego Costa, who eventually left Chelsea for Atletico Madrid.
Vlasic, who joined the troubled Merseysiders on deadline day in a deal worth around £10m, eventually plumped for the number 27 after being denied 19 due to the possibility of Costa joining. He also could not wear his desired number eight, which is currently held by wantaway midfielder Ross Barkley.
Costa was strongly linked with a move to Everton after being cast aside by Chelsea boss Antonio Conte during the summer. Former Toffees boss Ronald Koeman admitted he was interested in the Spain international late in the transfer window, and there were suggestions of a short-term deal which would have allowed the striker to join his beloved Atletico in the January transfer window.
A move to Goodison Park never came to pass for Costa, who re-joined Atletico from Chelsea for around £57m in September, but Vlasic's admission regarding his shirt number suggests that Everton were confident of striking a deal with Chelsea for the 28-year-old, who cannot play until January because of Atleti's player registration ban.
"No.27 was free, I wanted 8 but Ross Barkley wears it, while the club was keeping 19 for Diego Costa," Vlasic was quoted as saying by 24sata, relayed by Goal.
The young Croatian's number preference is the least of his and Everton's worries at this moment in time. The Merseysiders are currently without a permanent manager having sacked Koeman on Monday (23 October) and lie 18th in the Premier League table with just eight points from their opening nine matches.
Vlasic has been one of the rare bright sparks in an otherwise disastrous start to the season for Everton, and while he was sad to see Koeman relieved of his duties he is happy to ply his trade at a club which affords opportunities to youth prospects.
"I'm sorry that [Ronald] Koeman got sacked, because he bought me and we had a really good relationship, but that's football," Vlasic said.
"Everton is a great club for young players like Jordan Pickford, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ademola Lookman, Tom Davies, me. We all get chances; I'm satisfied."