World Soccer Talk

A return to Celtic may be David Moyes’ next best path in management

“I’m going to wait until the summer time and make a decision in the summer time,” David Moyes recently told Sky Sports. The former Preston North End, Everton, Manchester United and Real Sociedad manager was addressing the issue of the impending opening at Celtic.

Moyes noted that there are a lot of teams that will “interest” him. Come the end of the season, he could have his pick of Aston Villa, Celtic and his old club Everton.

After his stints at Manchester United and Real Sociedad ended in less than glorious circumstances, it’s only natural that Moyes studies any potential opportunity meticulously before making a decision.

Perhaps ‘meticulous’ is the wrong word to describe Moyes. ‘Cautious’ may be more appropriate given his approach to managing soccer clubs. Whether it was in the transfer market or on the pitch, the Scot was never one to take a flutter and only did gamble when backed into a corner.

In recent weeks, stories have emerged about Moyes’ interest in managing Aston Villa, his keenness in taking over at Celtic and his desire to return to Goodison should the Merseyside club dispense of Roberto Martínez’s services.

Of the three, the safe option would naturally be Everton. On the surface, it seems like an ideal fit; Moyes spent 10 full seasons at Goodison, got them as close as they ever have been to the Champions League during the early years of his reign and effectively established the club as a top 10 outfit.

The negatives were his trophyless haul and his poor record against cross-town rivals Liverpool. Moyes only won three of the 22 Merseyside derbies in the Premier League, whilst he saw his side defeated 12 times. He never managed to mastermind a win against Liverpool at Anfield.

However, should Moyes think more carefully before deciding on a return to Goodison? From a transfer point of view, the purse strings may be loosened with the arrival of Farhad Moshiri as majority shareholder. But across Stanley Park, Liverpool are undergoing their own uplifting face lift under Jürgen Klopp. If Moyes is thinking about a second coming then he’ll immediately have the Merseyside derby albatross over his head.

More than anything, it feels like his story at Everton is done. He may bring stability back to Goodison, could recruit bigger name players and maybe even target a cup but if his return merely ushers in a history repeating cycle, then is it really worth it?

Moyes was lauded for his loyalty to Everton and that his longevity was a key reason for his ascendancy to the throne at Old Trafford. However what is the flip side of the argument? Did he stay too long and entrenched himself in a certain footballing mindset thus setting himself up for inevitable failure? Hindsight is 20/20 but the Scot lost out on an opportunity to expand his footballing horizons by not opting to move clubs and experiencing different expectations. By the time United came calling, he was too set in his ways.

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So if Goodison is off the books, he could look at the fallen Birmingham giants, Aston Villa. If any club needs an injection of optimism, it is Villa and appointing Moyes is one way for the hierarchy there to show they mean business.

As with the Everton job, Moyes was reported to be interested at the vacancy at the Villa. The club, to put it mildly, is a complete and utter shambles, and the Scot is the kind of character the Villans need to straighten things out and put them on firmer footing.

The key question is ‘can he trust the powers that be at Villa?’ Rémi Garde effectively was on a hiding to nothing when he joined Villa and was undermined by the top brass when no signings came in during the January window. It’s not quite Manchester United but the retooling at Aston Villa will be significant. He will need to shift the under performers, recruit the right players capable of mounting a promotion challenge in the Championship and, if successful, strengthen for the Premier League the following season. Easier said than done.

Moyes, for all his recent failures, is a manager of some stature. Surely he can aim higher, with all due respect to Aston Villa.

Then there’s Celtic. The Glasgow giants will be looking for a new boss with Ronny Deila leaving Celtic this summer after an underwhelming stint in Scotland. Moyes has a connection with the club winning the title with them in 1982, and the opportunity to land the trophy as a manager too must be an attractive proposition.

On the face of it, joining Celtic would seem counter intuitive. The level of competition in the Scottish top flight is not high, the wage packet in all likelihood won’t be as large as what Everton (or even Villa) could offer, and if the club fails to make it into the Champions League group stages, then the season is practically over before it starts.

Yet, the Celtic job offers a unique challenge that Moyes has never really quite experienced, even when he was manager of Manchester United. The Scot hasn’t ever had to handle the tag of managing the ‘favorites’.

Even with cross-town rivals Rangers returning to the top flight next season after a four year absence, and the improvement of Aberdeen, Celtic will start the next campaign as favorites for the Scottish Premiership title.

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With that expectation comes its own pressure. Moyes will find that the onus would be on him and his side to break down the opposition therefore taking him out of his comfort zone, the natural inclination towards caution. He will need his team to take the game to his opponents in each and every domestic competition and win handsomely.

It’s not presumptuous to assume that should he take over the reins at Celtic, Moyes will finally win a top-flight competitive title and in doing so end his long trophy drought. It may ‘only’ be the Scottish Premiership but the experience of winning a title is something that cannot be underestimated.

The one challenge that Celtic can offer Moyes over other clubs is the opportunity of Champions League football. Deila failed to lead the Glasgow giants into the group stages but if Moyes can succeed where the Norwegian faltered, then he’ll be rewarded with the mouth-watering prospect of experiencing Champions League nights at Celtic Park.

A spell at Celtic can give Moyes a different type of soccer education that the other clubs just cannot offer. On the surface, it may look like the ‘easy’ option but that doesn’t make the experience any less valid. If anything, a successful period in Scotland will add a string, long missing, on Moyes’ bow.

The Celtic squad will need reshaping. He will have to work within a limited transfer budget, and will demand full managerial control but this is a club steeped in history and the thought of adding more trophies whilst returning them to the Champions League group stages must be an appealing one for Moyes.

When the Scot finally makes a decision, it won’t be on a whim. He’ll study each and every offer forensically and to the minutest detail. Jobs at an English club may be more enticing but a spell at the Scottish giants may be just the thing David Moyes needs at this stage of his career.