Everton fans have raised more than £2,700 for a banner that will proclaim they stand side-by-side with Moise Kean in his fight against racism. It represents a show of unity that was sorely lacking in April when the 19-year-old faced down his abusers while playing for Juventus against Cagliari, although the £29m striker insists that sorry episode is not why Italian football has lost one of its finest young talents.
“No, absolutely not,” the teenager says when asked whether the racist abuse he suffered at Cagliari, and the fall-out from it, is why he swapped the Old Lady of Turin for the Grand Old Lady of Goodison Park. “I like Everton. This is the reason I came here. I recognise myself in this team. Everton are looking ahead to the future and so am I.”
Kean’s determination to look ahead to a new start in a new country should not, however, be seen as an attempt to draw a veil over the recent past. The Italy international is quite willing to discuss his stand against racism and what occurred in the seconds, hours and weeks after his goal against Cagliari last season.
Kean celebrated that close-range strike with a defiant stare, arms aloft, in front of the home fans who had jeered his every touch. Instead of support he was rebuked for the celebration by the then Juventus coach, Massimiliano Allegri. His team-mate Leonardo Bonucci went further, claiming “the blame is 50-50” for the abuse that intensified after Kean’s goal.
Bonucci later backtracked and was condemned by Allegri. Serie A officials described the chants as “certainly reprehensible”, but took no action against Cagliari on the grounds they “had an objectively limited relevance to race”.
Kean insists he was not left isolated by his former club. “Juventus were on my side, they helped me,” he says. “We have to fight against racism, everybody knows that, and the club was very helpful to me in that situation.”
But what of Bonucci, his senior colleague for club and country? “I didn’t pay any attention to that comment. I was concentrating strongly on playing to the best of my ability so that I could repay Juventus for the support they gave me. I spoke with him later and he apologised. He told me he was wrong and that he didn’t know what he was talking about.”
Kean repaid Juventus with six goals in 13 league appearances last season as they took the Italian title for an eighth year in a row. He scored eight goals in 21 games in total for Juventus, was the club’s youngest debutant at 16 years and 23 days, yet was allowed to leave an ageing side despite long being heralded as their future. The teenager, who comes across as a thoughtful and determined character, explains it was his decision to leave a Champions League contender, a Serie A winning regular, in search of greater responsibility with Everton.
“I feel ready,” he says. “I have always had to take big responsibility because of my age. I met Marcel [Brands, Everton’s director of football] first. I like his ideas, his objectives, we are very similar in this and we have the same views about a lot of things.
“I like the Premier League and I followed it a lot. I also spoke to my companions at Juventus. I spoke to Cristiano [Ronaldo]. And they told me things but I knew enough on my own.” Ronaldo’s message was succinct. “He told me to follow my dreams and work hard.”
Kean claims he has not turned his back on Champions League football by joining a team that finished eighth last season. “It is part of the ambition of any player to help bring his team to the Champions League,” he says. “What I want is to bring Everton into the Champions League.”
Evertonians launched a JustGiving campaign on the day Kean signed to raise £1,000 for a banner that will be unveiled at his home debut against Watford on Saturday week. The target was surpassed in 24 hours and the extra money raised will be split equally between Kick It Out and Everton In The Community.
“It’s beautiful because racism is horrendous and we have to fight against it,” Kean says. “I’m going to repay the fans for all they do for me.”