Today has been a big day for Everton. While it was rumored for weeks and finally made official on Tuesday, it took until today for the man to be introduced to the local press. The man I’d hoped for did not get picked for the job, but Koeman is hardly a bad selection for the Goodison hotseat, and might be the smartest pick in the end. There’s isn’t a terrible lot to glean from the first press conference but I walked away with a few impressions.
Koeman is a dead serious operator and has his eyes focused on big things. The former Barcelona center half has been ambitious from the start, and has cut a path through management that has seen atVitesse Arhem, Ajax, Benfica, PSV Eindhoven and Valencia initially. Before coming over to the UK, he had spells back in his native Holland at AZ Alkmaar and Feyenoord.
His arrival on these shores saw him come into Southampton, a club that, for my money, is among the best organized in the Prem. He came in to replace a popular and successful coach in Mauricio Pochetino, who since has seen his stature grow at Tottenham. To see so much annoyance at his departure from Southampton fans shows that he managed not just to maintain the good feeling at St. Mary’s during his brief tenure but build upon it. A well-organized club was able to replace one good manager with another, ambitious one, who has now apparently moved on to bigger things.
That he considers Everton a big next step tells me that he may not be done moving along just yet. He had signed a three-year deal initially with Southampton, and refused to renew at the end of last season. This deserves to be expanded upon: as a manager, Koeman has not spent longer than three years at any one club. Certainly he has had his share of the sack, but he saw progress professionally in his last two clubs and his profile has risen consequently. He has signed a three-year contract with Everton.
As much as I love my club, I can’t see Koeman seeing Everton as anything other than a stop along a path he is carving out for himself. For a man of his ambitions, I image he sees himself at the helm of a truly massive club, perhaps even Barcelona, where he had such success as a player. I can’t imagine this has not occurred to Bill Kenwright or Farhad Moshiri. The latter, in fact, might be counting upon Koeman’s ambitious streak to sell the club as a logical progression for the man: Everton, while now a shadow of the colossus it once was, still is a club with more silverware than Chelsea and Man City combined. Yes, thems was some years ago. As the saying goes, though, form is fleeting; class is permanent. Under Moshiri, you get the sense Everton are looking to bring back the good ol’ days to Goodison.
That Koeman could be the man at the helm when Everton gate-crash the top four in coming years would have been a selling point. We got the cash and the history, but we need a world-beater to help us be great again. Put that on your CV Ronny, and the big boys will be beating down your door.
My guess is we could see Koeman hang around for a max of four years, maybe extending his contract after the second year (depending on how we’ve done) and then eventually buggering off to Barca or Bayern or some such global heavyweight (I can’t imagine him going to Real. You’d get the sense that would be too big an insult for any legend of the Nou Camp). It’s a marriage of convenience, one brokered between a club on the ascent and a manager looking for his next big challenge.
Koeman has always worked under a continental-type setup, meaning a director of football will be the next major appoint from Kenwright and Moshiri. One name keeps coming up in the press: Monchi. The man largely credited with the rise and rise of Sevilla would indeed be a coup and a major throwing down of the gauntlet on the part of Everton. Such a move would be bigger than luring Koeman across from Southampton, as you would assume the goal would be to keep Monchi at the club for years to come. This would ensure a shift in philosophy at a sporting level at the club, recruitment and the academy. It would be a monster signing.
But back to Koeman… he was peppered with questions about possible signings from his former club and how he would tie down the likes of Romelu Lukaku and John Stones. His predictable non-answers were just the sort of expectation maintenance you’d expect from the new appointment, and that this all played out before a partisan crowd of local reporters made that easier to get away with. The real work will start after the end of the Euros. Lukaku has been making eyes at everyone from Chelsea to PSG; anyone, it would seem, other than his current employer. Koeman, known as a stern disciplinarian but also very good as a man-manager, will be asked to put all his negotiation skills to the test. My guess, though, is he will not stand in the way of Lukaku, should he push for a move.
I think this because the very appointment of Koeman, a former world-class ball-playing center half, was more than likely done (at least in part) to appeal to another, current star of the Everton squad who also happens to be handy with his feet and works along the backline. Perhaps Everton have it in mind to rebuild the team from the back, as any good team restructuring should be. Make sure the defense is solid – it’s what Moyes did well. John Stones, who agitated for a move last summer, could very well be Koeman’s first serious sit-down chat once the boys come back from the continental summer tournament. Much has been made about Stones’ natural ability and cool head on the ball, and a talent such as his can be in short supply in his preferred place at the heart of defense. He could easily grow and become a truly world class player at another club such as the Mans United or City, perhaps even Barcelona. All this would appeal to Stones, who is still only 22 years of age. If the goal is to build a team that can launch an assault at the top four, securing Stones’ buy-in is surely of greater urgency than Lukaku, at least for the long-term project. Lukaku has never made any bones about his desire to play at clubs bigger than Everton. Maybe the doors aren’t thrown open for him to leave, but don’t exactly stand in his way either. Get a good 65 million pound transfer fee for the lad and plow it back into the team.
The second player to tie down and truly work on is Ross Barkley. That the boy shows flashes of world class is undeniable. His inconsistency, though, is a concern as is his mental toughness. Big Dunc can provide mentoring up to a point, but perhaps he needs a change of setup. There has been some chatter of seeing the schemer drop into a role a bit deeper in midfield, which could be an interesting to see. If he is to have a free role in the middle to deliver the killer pass, perhaps moving him farther back is wise. A change of formation wouldn’t hurt either – Martinez’s slavish adherence to the 4-2-3-1 often saw Barkley pushed too far up behind Lukaku. What if Everton were to switch to the tried and true 4-4-2, with Barkley partnered in the heart of the midfield with James McCarthy and given a free role to drift all across the middle? I could see Gerard Deulofeu on the right wing and maybe we retain Kevin Mirallas to operate in on the left. If Lukaku isn’t able to engineer a move away from the club, who could adequately partner him in a big ‘un – little ‘un setup? Oumar Niasse is still a complete unknown quality and has acquired a perhaps unfair association with the failures of the Martinez era that were big on promise but short on delivery.
While it’s not likely to happen, I’d argue Everton should try to tie down a return of Wayne Rooney at this time. It’s about as far-fetched a scenario as any, but there is some logic to it. It’s arguable that the biggest signings for Everton right now would be simply to retain Stones and Barkley. Bringing in Rooney could have the effect of keeping Lukaku at Everton simply to see where this goes. Lukaku has developed as a player but even he would concede he’s got a ways to go before he’s the finished article. Who better to learn along side than Rooney? Wages and transfer fee would be in the stratosphere but it would be just the sort of signing that would show the rest of the League that the Blue half of Merseyside are back to recover their mojo in earnest. If by some miracle we were able to lure him away from United… well that would be a thing, wouldn’t it?
That last bit is just a bit of fanciful thinking, but who can tell these days? Rooney himself already stated he’d never play for any other team in the Prem other than Everton. He’s been pictured at the ground plenty of times. His kids are growing up as Bluenoses. At some level, he must crave this triumphant return. I’d watch this transfer window. It could just happen, and if it did then it would be the sort of blockbuster summer no Blue would ever forget.