Everton were given an unwanted reminder of the continued impressive development of former midfielder Nikola Vlasic this week.

The 23-year-old scored a crucial goal for Croatia against Scotland on Tuesday night which helped seal his side’s progression into the knockout phase of the showpiece tournament.

Vlasic arrived at Goodison Park from Hajduk Split back in 2017 as part of a busy summer spending spree which saw the club splurge over £140million on new signings.

The then 19-year-old struggled to forge himself a role in the squad though and game time proved sparse.

His transition into the Premier League wasn’t helped by the fact that it was a turbulent campaign for the Toffees who sacked manager Ronald Koeman just two months into the season and eventually replaced him with Sam Allardyce.

This managerial move led to Vlasic playing out of position in a defence-minded set-up and consequently unable to produce his best form.

In an interview with the Athletic back in March, he explained, “It was hard. The hardest was when we would play 4-4-2. I would be on the right-wing but it was more right wing-back because we were so defensive."

“I played three or four times under Allardyce and I felt like I was a full-back. It was the first experience for me in that position and I felt so bad because I had never played winger before.”

Despite the arrival of Marco Silva at the end of the campaign, Vlasic didn’t stick around and was instead sent to CSKA Moscow on a season-long loan.

Playing in more suited roles, he shone in the Russian capital, scoring 11 goals - including a winner against Real Madrid in the Champions League - and assisting a further nine across all competitions.

It was expected that the success of this move would act as a springboard for his Everton career, yet the Croatian international left permanently to join up with CSKA in the summer of 2019.

Everton’s loss was most definitely CSKA’s gain and he’s since gone on to establish himself as one of Europe’s best young attackers.

He usually plays the No.10 role within a 4-2-3-1 system, yet his movement and intelligence means he’ll pop up almost anywhere inside the opposition’s half, providing lots of dribbling, shooting and creating chances for teammates around him.

Standing at 5ft10in, he’s not the most physically imposing, yet his intelligence combined with good pace and agility make him a tough opponent to dispossess.

Nikola Vlasic of Croatia controlls the ball during the International Friendly match between Belgium and Croatia (Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Across all of last season, he averaged a high 7.68 dribbles per 90, with a standout success rate of 61.4% from the same. At Everton, no player could match that output last season.

He finished the campaign with 12 goals and a further six assists, although his high expected assist total of 8.3 suggests he’s unlucky to have not accumulated more.

Whilst the bulk of these impressive numbers may have come in the unremarkable environment of the Russian Premier League, his capacity to replicate his high level of performances in European competition against tougher opponents does indicate he has the potential to succeed at a higher level, especially given he’s still some way from his prime years.

Right now, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that Everton are devoid of creative profiles high up the pitch. The two players looked at most to deliver in this department are Gylfi Sigurdsson and James Rodriguez.

The former has regularly struggled to create chances at a consistent level without the benefit of set-pieces, whilst the latter has been linked with a move away from Goodison Park.

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Based on his current ability and potential to develop even further, Vlasic would have almost certainly been a key player within this current Everton squad.

And his agent wouldn’t rule out a return to the club in a recent interview.

“Everton has not contacted me about Nikola, and this is not a question at the moment. But who knows what the future holds. Everything is possible,” Vlasic's agent told Russian publication Soccer.

Yet as his stock rises, competition for his signature will likely be fierce, therefore there’s a lingering sense of frustration that he was allowed to slip through the club’s fingers in the first place.