For the last 14 years, Evertonians have only known two managers in David Moyes and Roberto Martinez. So, quite naturally, there have always been comparisons made between the two.
Those contrasts have been easy to formulate because of the striking differences in the principles held by each man. Moyes was a pragmatist and a conservative manager by nature, while Martinez, sacked by the club on Thursday, had visions of accomplishing a grand utopia, although never established the foundations to aim so high.
As so often happens in soccer, managerial appointments are often made with the weaknesses of the predecessor in mind and given how Martinez has faltered, you’d have to say Everton strayed too far from one philosophy to the other. When pondering a replacement, it’s imperative the club consider a more balanced coach.
So it’s encouraging to read Southampton boss Ronald Koeman is their top target. According to a multitude of reports plastered across the back pages in England, the Toffees are ready to swoop for the Dutchman and offer him £100 million to spend in the summer.
Initially, it’s a move which may not seem too appealing for the former Barcelona player. Everton, after all, are on course for a second consecutive bottom half finish, while Southampton, under his astute guidance, are poised to finish in the top seven once again.
Saints are a club in a brilliant position too. They have a prosperous recruitment structure, a great academy and a fine fanbase. But the Toffees, historically the fourth-most successful club in English football, carry more clout, despite their recent troubles. And you could see why a potential switch to Merseyside, which remains one of the post passionate football regions around, would appeal to the 53-year-old.
With new investment, his ceiling would be higher at Goodison Park than at St Mary’s. New major shareholder Farhad Moshiri is set to pump money into the club this summer and while they’ve underperformed this season, there is talent to tap into at the club already. There’s also a fanbase, who have turned out all season despite some abject efforts, desperate for success.
There are merits for and against the move. But if Everton can convince Koeman to up sticks and take on the job, he’s shown at Southampton he could offer the balance which Toffees fans have long craved.
It’s hard not to admire the job done at St Mary’s. Since he’s been at the club Koeman has had to cater for the departures of Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, Calum Chambers, Morgan Schneiderlin, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, a core of players that, in the main, helped gain promotion and secure Southampton’s spot in the Premier League.
And yet the club remain competitive. Southampton have acquired some gifted players from the continent and the Premier League too, while the manager has helped mould them into a team who play a diverse style of soccer.
It’s what Everton fans crave. In their history this is a team that’s been dubbed the “School of Science” and the “Dogs of War”. They’re monikers that are polar opposites to one another and while each has been embraced, the style most supporters want to see rests somewhere in the middle. Indeed, the great side of the 1980s were a tremendous technical side, but as tenacious as anyone.
Koeman is a manager who has brought that kind of balance to the south coast. Saints are outstanding off the ball, shutting down opponents and restricting space. They’re also extremely fit, spirited and play with a fluidity when in the final third.
The Dutchman hasn’t had a perfect managerial career by any means, with tumultuous spells at AZ Alkmaar and Valencia before moving to the south coast. However, the way in which he wants the game to be played, coupled with his assured persona, is an ideal fit for English football. It’s evident he’s matured as a coach at St Mary’s too.
Of course, Everton will face a fight to get the Dutchman out of Southampton, with one year still remaining on his three-year deal. However, the club needs to be ambitious in their next move. Times have been testing lately, but the Toffees—as nine-time league champions and five-time FA Cup winners should—must puff their chest out and approach the best man for the job.
Luring Koeman would be a statement for the club and on the cusp of a new era at Everton, transform the mood from one of caution into one of excitement about the future.
As a proven winner and a boss well acquainted with the demands of English football, he ticks a lot of boxes. His football would enliven the crowd and convince supporters the club are raising standards with a bright future in mind; now they just have to convince Koeman.
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