|Date: Sunday, 1 November Venue: Wembley Kick-off: 14:30 GMT Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, the BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website & app|
Wembley may be 6,000 miles from her birthplace on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, but France striker Valerie Gauvin already seems to feel at home with Everton as they prepare for Sunday’s Women’s FA Cup final.
The 24-year-old has made a big impact in front of goal since signing from Montpellier in August, scoring five times in her first eight games in all competitions, including goals in the cup quarter-final and semi-final.
Securing the signature of Gauvin – one of the biggest names to join the Women’s Super League this summer – has been described as a “real coup for the club” by Everton boss Willie Kirk.
But just how good might she be and how did Gauvin, born on a volcanic island east of Madagascar, become an “old school English centre forward” and one of the hottest properties in the game?
“She is world class, and she’s not even operating at 100% yet,” Kirk told BBC Sport. “She can achieve whatever she wants.
“She can be the WSL’s top scorer in the future. She can be a World Cup winner with France in the future. She’s a top, top player, and a really humble girl.
“She suits the English game really well. She’s physical, a very strong robust person and player, who is fantastic in the air, has got a great touch, can play with her back to goal, and has got deceiving pace, so she ticked every box that we wanted from a number nine.
“She’s quite a shy girl, but certainly not shy when it comes to scoring goals and putting her head in where it hurts, because she is phenomenal in the air and she will cause Man City a threat at the weekend.”
‘She showed huge desire to sign for Everton’
The Toffees meet Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday, after Gauvin’s goals helped them past reigning league champions Chelsea in the last eight and semi-final opponents Birmingham City.
The game provides the conclusion of last season’s delayed cup competition, but Everton are enjoying a fine start to the 2020-21 league campaign too, and are second in the table after an unbeaten first five games.
Kirk believes part of that success is down to their work in the transfer market.
“We’ve managed to bring in some real talent, and some a bit under the radar,” he continued. “I don’t think people appreciated how good Nicoline Sorensen and Rikke Sevecke were, the two Danes, and now they’re beginning to make an impact in the WSL.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to sign Val, I’d been watching her for a number of years, but to be able to recruit her in the summer was fantastic and she’s repaying us already.
“I do think it was a real coup for the club. She showed a huge desire to sign for the club.
“We thought the deal was dead at one point and we’d moved on to target number two, in the striker position, but she pretty much resurrected that deal herself.
“That gave me comfort, in the type of person I was getting. It wasn’t just somebody coming because they wanted to come to England – it was because they genuinely wanted to come to Everton and believed in the project.”
Gauvin’s impressive goals ratio at Everton should come as no surprise – she scored 14 times in 16 matches for Montpellier last term and found the net on average once per game as a France youth international.
She has now scored 16 times in 33 games for the senior side, helping them reach the quarter-finals of last summer’s World Cup, but some feel her skills are underappreciated by French supporters.
‘Like Cantona and Giroud, her style suits the English game’
“She has crazy numbers, her goal numbers are unbelievable at every level,” Sylvain Jamet, a reporter for French women’s football magazine Footofeminin, told BBC Sport.
“Part of the French fan base don’t really like her because she has that old school English centre-forward profile, a bit like Olivier Giroud, so some French fans don’t realise how good her numbers are.
“They prefer [Paris St-Germain forward] Marie-Antoinette Katoto basically, she is like lightning, and in France we like those speedy kind of forwards like Thierry Henry. Gauvin’s profile is not what the French naturally like.
“But she got 0.6 goals per game at Under-16 level, one goal per game at Under-17s and now 0.5 goals per game for the seniors.”
The former Toulouse youngster scored twice as France hosted last summer’s World Cup, after initially being dropped for their opening game after turning up late to training – something she acknowledged at the time that she “had brought on herself”.
“She took her time to get in to the side,” Jamet added. “We had Eugenie Le Sommer so it was quite hard for a new player to come in and find a space in the squad.
“For Everton, her numbers again are really impressive – she’s scored one goal every 74 minutes – that’s pretty impressive.
“Her game really suits the English game. It’s like Eric Cantona when he arrived. It’s all down to her profile.
“She’s a very physical player, she’s very good at heading, she will fight for every ball, she’s a really hard worker as well.”