Ronald Koeman’s departure from Southampton to join Everton is as surprising as it is bold, both from the Dutchman, and from the new Toffees owners who have brokered such a deal to bring him to the club.
Koeman leaves with the Saints preparing for European football, having only built promisingly on the foundations laid by Mauricio Pottechino, and joins an Everton team sitting in the wilderness between European contention and a relegation scrap. Even the disillusionment of the fans, the alien new environment with which he must now surround himself, and the task of re-gelling and reconstructing an ailing side of underachievers seems not to have swayed him.
So why did he move?
Koeman’s ambitions as a manager have been obvious since he began his career with Ajax, with a steady collection of trophies to confirm this. In 2001-02 he won a domestic double with Ajax, a title win with PSV in 06-07, plus a Copa del Rey when in charge of Valencia in 2007-08, to name but a few. There have been a few calamities, notably AZ Alkmaar, but for the most, his time as a manager has been one of consistency, attractive flowing football, and plenty of goals.
Koeman, whilst ambitious, is a manager with whom loyalty is an issue, so it would seem. He has never lasted longer than four years in a job, either down to his own decision to resign, or because of a club sacking him. His nomadic career reflects his ambition to succeed in varying environments, which would explain the decision to move to Goodison Park.
What does he leave behind?
Southampton must now prepare for a first season in the Europa League proper since 2004 without Koeman, and in all likelihood his brother and assistant manager Erwin, at the helm. Whilst European competition will be enough to secure the stays of some, for others the lure of bigger clubs may be too appealing. Victor Wanyama, Ryan Bertrand, and Dusan Tadic are names who have been linked with departures from St Mary’s.
An exodus such as the one two summers ago (with those like Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Dejan Lovren departing) is one the Saints survived thanks in part to Koeman’s dexterity in the transfer market. Without him, the task of replenishing any departing talent may prove an altogether different task for the new manager, ultimately one beyond him.
What does Koeman arrive to?
The huge disappointment that was the 2015-16 cost Roberto Martinez his job, where the bulk of the disappointment lies in Martinez’ own inability to walk the walk in the same manner in which he talked the talk. Upon his arrival, he guaranteed Champions League football. Had he been more pragmatic about the kind of promise he was making, perhaps he would have surivvived the managerial execution delivered to him. Evertonians are coming to terms with the fact that Koeman will deliver no such promise, but there is still hope that he can invigorate the team in the same manner he achieved on the south coast.
He will need to as well! The Toffees are now backed by large sums of money that medals they can technically compete on the same level as Liverpool and Arsenal, but will need to address the shortcomings of what is without doubt a squad full of big names. Romelu Lukaku has had his fair share of off days this term, the same can be said for Ross Barkley.
But the real problem for Everton lies at the back. In losing Tim Howard, Everton are missing a vitally stubborn root of their defence, one that Joel Robles has not yet lived up to being. Phil Jagielka, for all his wonderful years of service is now 33 years old and in the middle of an injury rehabilition. His reliability is not what it once was, whilst John Stones has potential but little consistency as the rumours of a move to Chelsea hampered his performances.
Koeman has a lot on his plate as he takes up the reigns at Goodison Park. There is no doubting the talent in the squad, and the Dutchman’s proclamation of Everton being a bigger club than Southampton suggests he is ready to step up and bring the Toffees back amongst the higher reaches of the Premier League.