It is fair to say that not many Premier League fans would have heard about Kevin Mirallas going into the 2012-13 season, although that is certainly not the case now after the Belgian’s debut campaign in the top flight with Everton.
Mirallas may have been the top scorer in the Greek Super League last season, having scored an impressive 20 goals in only 25 appearances as Olympiacos won their 40th title, as well as being a regular with the Belgium national team, but he was still far from a household name when he arrived on Merseyside last August as a replacement for the Manchester City-bound midfield player Jack Rodwell.
However, it did not take long for the wide man to catch the public’s imagination following his £5.3 million arrival on a four-year deal at Goodison Park, scoring twice and laying on two more goals in his very first start at Leyton Orient in the second round of the Capital One Cup.
The 25-year-old then netted his first strike in the Premier League in a 3-0 win at Swansea City in September, although it was not just goals that the winger had in his locker but also the crucial ability to assist teammates in finding the target, which he has managed to do on six occasions in the Premier League and nine times in all competitions in 28 games so far this season.
"He is the type of player any side with ambition needs - he actively wants the ball all the time and tries to go past defenders,” was Howard Kendall’s recent opinion of Mirallas.
“He is a refreshing player in my eyes. Not many clubs have someone like that – maybe only the other Champions League contenders."
High praise indeed from a highly respected figure in the game, and a man who has seen a few good players in his time at Everton over the years.
Of course, like anyone who is playing in a new league for the very first time, there have been the inevitable downs to accompany the ups, with Mirallas’ midseason injury problems badly derailing his campaign just as he was really starting to find his feet in the Premier League.
In fact, between Nov. 10 and Jan. 21, the Belgium international played just 45 minutes of first-team football for the Toffees after suffering a hamstring injury in the 2-1 home win against Sunderland in the top flight.
Either way, whether it was the miracle abilities of “Healing Hans,” as Muller-Wohlfhart is often referred to in his homeland, or not, when Mirallas did eventually make his long-awaited comeback he provided Everton with that extra bit of attacking creativity and spark that they had been badly missing in his injury-enforced absence.
It was not long before the attacker was in the goals again as well. His strike against Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup in February was his first since September incredibly, while recently Mirallas has really found an eye for goal in the Premier League—and not just your run-of-the-mill strikes either.
Three goals in four top-flight matches in March and April, with both those against Stoke City at home and at Tottenham Hotspur being genuine contenders for Goal of the Season, have confirmed the player’s status as one of the real standout performers of the campaign.
“What he has got in abundance though is pace, ability, he can score goals, he can take you on and he can play in two or three different positions,” was Moyes’ assessment of the one-time Lille and Saint-Etienne player earlier this month.
In the absence of any significant strikes this campaign from the club’s goal-shy Croatian front man Nicola Jelavic, Mirallas’ all-round attacking contributions have become even more important in Everton’s remarkable charge towards next season’s Champions League.
You might get 20 minutes when he's not in the game, but when he is we all know what he can produce. He's certainly showed he's got the quality. At times he's been a real plus for us the way he goes about his job and the skill he's got. It's vital we try and keep him out there more. We need to get more games in him and more minutes in those games.
Indeed, but for Mirallas’ goals and assists at both the start and now the climax to the campaign, it is hard to imagine that Everton would still now be pushing for a top-four finish. With a proper preseason behind him this summer, imagine just what a threat Mirallas will be next campaign?
However, perhaps the final word on one of this season’s surprise packages should be left to the man who spotted Mirallas in the first place and backed his judgement by bringing the player to England.
“Kevin Mirallas scored a Gareth Bale goal,” was how Moyes described the winger’s wonderful solo goal at White Hart Lane this month, before cheekily adding: “Or maybe Gareth’s been scoring Kevin Mirallas goals!”
Now that is some compliment for a player in their first-ever campaign in the Premier League, but then again, it has been that kind of a season at times for Mirallas, much to many people’s great surprise.