The 21-year-old spoke of his gratitude for the support of fans since joining Everton in the summer.
Amadou Onana has missed playing in front of Everton supporters and cannot wait for the return of the Premier League, explaining: “There is nothing else like Goodison.”
Everton host Wolverhampton Wanderers on Boxing Day – Frank Lampard’s side’s first home game since the defeat to Leicester City on November 5. Since then Onana has been on World Cup duty with Belgium but he is now looking forward to being home again.
Reflecting on a remarkable 2022, the midfielder singled out his relationship with Blues as one of the highlights of his short time on Merseyside since moving from French side Lille in the summer.
Onana’s introduction to Everton supporters came before he had confirmed his signing, the 21-year-old emerging from the bowels of Goodison Park to take a seat in the directors box just before half-time in the opening game of the season against Chelsea. His appearance sparked excitement that rippled around the ground – a reaction that has stayed with Onana.
Recalling that moment, he told the ECHO: “That was amazing. At that point I hadn’t signed yet but after that I said straight to my sister [Melissa, who is also his also his agent] ‘I am definitely signing’ because I had never had something like that before.” He added that he was not suffering doubts about joining Everton before that moment, but the reaction “was a plus, an extra boost to tell me ‘just sign the paper'”.
Goodison has left its mark, particularly for the atmosphere he experienced at the Merseyside derby, which he described as “the best I have ever seen so far, that I have ever lived or played in”. Onana’s arrival at Everton was one of several big moments in a highlight-filled 12 months that also saw him make his Belgium debut before featuring in the World Cup. And while the side, then led by former Blues boss Roberto Martinez, suffered disappointment as they exited at the group stages, Onana was widely praised for his performances and subsequent emergence on the world stage.
After returning to Finch Farm for training last week he is focused solely on doing what he can to ignite Goodison and ease any supporters’ fears that this could turn into another gruelling season. Of Goodison, and the home crowd, he said: “I missed it. The World Cup has been great, but I missed it. There is nothing else like Goodison. It is just different, I can’t really explain it but it is different and I have missed the atmosphere. It has been amazing having their support. Even though we have had setbacks and tough moments they have not let us down and that is one of the big points for me, that massive support we have got is just unbelievable.”
Onana spoke to the ECHO after visiting families at Claire House’s West Derby site with Asmir Begovic. The players spent Monday morning chatting with families and children supported by the charity, which works to provide help, care and experiences for seriously and terminally-ill youngsters. Both got stuck in with entertainment and Christmas-related crafts as they gave out signed merchandise, posed for pictures and gave their time to the children against a backdrop of mince pies and Christmas decorations. After two hours at the Honey’s Green Lane complex Onana said: “This is what Everton is about. When I came I said it feels like a big family because it is all about taking care of each other, giving back.”
While Onana and Begovic attended the Claire House centre, Seamus Coleman and Tom Davies were at nearby Zoe’s Place baby hospice meeting children and their carers and families. The visits represent a return to the face-to-face support provided by the club and players at this time of the year after two festive seasons hit by pandemic restrictions.