Carlo Ancelotti has left Everton for Real Madrid
Everton are a club permanently at the crossroads. They move in circles, tantalising and frustrating their supporters. When they do find a direction, it rarely turns out to be a positive route.
The departure of Carlo Ancelotti is another example of the Goodison syndrome. The Italian, with his magnificent record as a manager, looked just the man to elevate Everton to their rightful position as one of the elite Premier League clubs. The Big Six should really be the Big Seven.
Instead, they finished 10th in the table and Ancelotti decamped to the Bernabeu. Now, much to the amusement of everyone except Evertonians, Real Madrid and Barcelona are coached by ex-Goodison bosses.
This is not a credit to Everton’s recruitment. It is the opposite. The orthodox logic in football is hire the finest manager available that you can afford. Ancelotti was clearly the best out there when he was appointed 17 months ago and Farhad Moshiri had the cash to back him. There are other factors to be taken into account, though.
The three-time Champions League winner was 60. He has never been a 24/7 manager and his strength is not coaching. He is less a builder than a finisher. Everton needed a builder.
Men like Ancelotti thrive at places like Real, Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich, where the players are of a higher class and the infrastructure is strong. His short, unsuccessful spell at Napoli should have been a warning.
Plus, Ancelotti was always going to have his head turned by a bigger job. When you have his reputation, you are in demand. Everton are not a destination club. They are a transit team. This was evidenced even more by Ronald Koeman’s tenure.
Koeman finally got to his target when he was appointed by Barcelona but during his time on Merseyside he acted as if it was a stop-off point. He never tried to establish roots or create foundations. In the end he was sacked. There were a multitude of reasons but throughout his Goodison career he had one eye on the team and the other on his next post.
Have Everton learnt anything from these experiences? Not if Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Ranieri are realistic contenders for the position.
One of Everton’s biggest problems comes from living in the shadow of Liverpool. From the boardroom to the bars around Goodison there is a belief that the two clubs carry similar status, that somehow Everton exist in the same strata as their neighbours. This is a destructive notion. It is three decades since they were anywhere near on an equal level with Liverpool on a regular basis. Their managerial appointments and big-money signings are viewed through the prism of the rivalry with Anfield. The obsession with what they call “the Reds***e” has warped their sense of perspective.
Everton actually have a top-class manager on their doorstep, whose credentials are impeccable and who wouldn’t be lured away by more glamorous approaches because he has roots on Merseyside. Rafa Benitez lives on the Wirral and has two ambitions: to manage in the Premier League and to be able to go home to his own house each night. He is an obsessive manager who commits totally to a job on a round-the-clock basis. He builds. His Liverpool connections rule him out.
The most exciting up-and-coming manager in Britain is also a local. Steven Gerrard has worked wonders at Rangers, another traditional powerhouse who suffered hard times. He would be a risk but he would energise almost any other club in the Premier League. At Goodison he is Reds***e and verboten. The majority of Evertonians would rather see Duncan Ferguson promoted.
Everton are a big club. They have underperformed badly for a long time. Some fans think their fall from grace started three-and-a-half decades ago. They need not look back so far.
The involvement of Philip Green as friend and advisor to Bill Kenwright somehow always ended up with the club being short of money. Recent events in the disgraced retail mogul’s career give some sense of how foolish Kenwright was to seek Green’s counsel. David Moyes performed superbly under difficult circumstances during this parsimonious era but that was at a different stage in his career. If the West Ham United manager is Kenwright’s first choice it indicates a remarkable lack of imagination for someone who made his reputation in the theatre. Moshiri prefers Nuno Espirito Santo, an equally unimaginative option.
Everton, almost more than any other club in the Premier League, need to develop their own identity on and off the pitch. There is a sort of smugness that defies reason, an attitude of “we do things the right way” coming from the boardroom. The table and the trophy room tell a different story. The ‘People’s Club’ guff does not have any resonance without a red pall hanging over it. Goodison has money available and plenty of ambition but these need to be channelled through a manager who is in for the long haul and who can see the potential benefits available.
The right man can help Everton step out of the shadows in the same way Mauricio Pochettino propelled Tottenham Hotspur forward seven years ago. If ever a place needed a reset button pressed, it’s Goodison. They need to find a sense of direction before finding the right manager.
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