Former Netherlands legend Ronald Koeman, after a successful stint at Southampton, has decided to make the move to Everton Football Club who have endured a stagnated reign under former manager Roberto Martinez. When taking the history of the two clubs into perspective, it seems like the right move for a manager slowly climbing the ladder. However, league finishes for both clubs over the last two seasons may indicate otherwise. Now 53, the Dutchman begins his three year tenure with the Toffees with an incredible amount of work ahead of him and it raises the question if the move was actually worth it.
The first thing to consider when examining this move is the recent acquisition of a 49.9% stake in the club by Iranian billionaire, Farhad Moshiri. This investment led to a lucrative offer for Koeman which would see his wages double from what he earned while at Southampton as well as covering his compensation package to them to break his contract. That and the promise of a reported war chest of £100m to spend, along with the proceeds from Romelu Lukaku’s sale, would be enough to entice most managers, however, it would be far too simplistic to attribute the move to just those things. As mentioned earlier, Koeman may have seen this as an opportunity to raise his profile as a manager considering Everton’s history globally and as a Premier League club. The project of re-establishing one of the founding clubs of the Premier League as a top half team capable of qualifying for European competitions consistently would prove to be too attractive for Koeman to refuse.
Unfortunately for the Dutchman, the negatives of the move are a bit more glaring than the positives. Firstly, he has to deal with the impending transfer of two of Everton’s most talented players in Romelu Lukaku and John Stones. Stones made it clear last season he wanted to leave after clear interest from Chelsea, and it has been reported that Mourinho still wants the young ball playing centre back to join him at United. Manchester City are also expected to increase their interest as reports emerged of Aymeric Laporte signing a new contract with Athletic Bilbao. As for Lukaku, he and his father have been more than vocal about their desire to move up to the next level, saying that time is up for Romelu at the Merseyside club. Having scored 25 goals in all competitions for the Toffees, Chelsea and Dortmund are among the clubs said to be interested in the young striker. Good performances at the Euros for both these players could seal their moves making it a difficult start for Koeman. In addition to trying to manage those departures, replacements for them and aging players in the spine of the team are also necessary. Gareth Barry, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines are all in their twilight years while Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar have already been released. Despite significant funds being available, Everton’s league finish and the newfound competitiveness of English clubs in the transfer market will certainly make it difficult for them to secure the quality needed for Koeman to make a big impact in his first season.
While the transfer dealings may have an impact on how Koeman’s tenure progresses, refreshing Everton’s stagnated style of play, and the results that come with that, will be what he’s judged by. A 55% win percentage over his managerial career indicates that he may be the right man for the job. In the Premier league specifically, he enjoyed a 48.88% win percentage with Southampton and lead them to their highest league finish in 2014/15 of 7th, amassing a record 60 points. The former defender then went on to better both those achievements in 2015/16, finishing the season in 6th place, garnering 63 points. Everton on the other hand, have continued to play the same style with little variation utilising the same core players, who have either aged beyond development or have simply shown signs of stagnation barring a few, namely Lukaku, Stones and the talented Ross Barkley. This stagnation has resulted in regression and Koeman has to now halt that downward spiral by rejuvenating Everton with his own possession based system while adding his Southampton team’s noted aggressive counter press and defensive structure, key aspects of his style which were evident throughout his tenure at St. Mary’s. What will be even more impressive for Everton fans is Koeman steadily built Southampton to this point without the help of big name transfers, relying mainly on unearthing gems from other leagues.
Ultimately for Koeman, this is a massive project and with the investment of funds he may have been promised, it could be a significantly fulfilling one. However, most would see it as a sideways, if not downward, step with the level of restructuring the Everton team may need heading into the new season. Regardless of which side of the fence one may fall on in that particular debate, disappointment is just as likely as prosperity as he looks to lead the Toffees back into being a top half team.