As an Evertonian, I was delighted when the club hired Ronald Koeman as manager last summer. He was the one that I wanted, although I wasn’t sure he would leave Southampton, where his results were pretty miraculous. He did and the Toffees have been lucky to have him.
Koeman got off to a good start at Goodison Park, winning five of his first six games in charge. He then saw results tail off for two or three months but they have come back even stronger.
There is still some inconsistency, as Sunday’s very poor display at Tottenham showed, but his signings have been good and integrated well and the team has returned to effective football following the Roberto Martinez era. In short, Koeman has moved Everton forward.
He did the same at Southampton, lifting them to seventh and then sixth in his two seasons on the south coast, and when you consider how difficult a competition the Premier League is it is understandable that he is being linked with the likes of Barcelona and Arsenal.
He has great pedigree from a highly successful career as a player and manager in Holland and Spain, and that means he commands respect both in the boardroom and the dressing room. It should be no surprise if he is highly sought-after.
Koeman’s affinity with Barca is obvious, having spent six years there as a player, winning the European Cup, and two more as a coach. He knows how the club works and I can see why he’d find it hard to resist them if they wanted him to replace the outgoing Luis Enrique in the summer.
At Arsenal, Koeman could offer a deep knowledge of the English game and an ability to bring in quality players, as well as his evident track record. I’m not certain whether the Gunners would be enough of a draw for him, though.
His style at Southampton and Everton may be more pragmatic than that associated with Barcelona or Arsenal, but I don’t think that ought to hold him back. You have to cut your cloth accordingly and he has seen enough in football to be fully equipped for a change of style. It’s also true that he hasn’t won a trophy since 2008, but he does have a long history of winning silverware.
The danger for Koeman and Everton is that speculation could prove a distraction. If it affects results then his current job may end up on the line, never mind his next one. I also think it could have a bearing on Romelu Lukaku and whether the club’s top scorer signs a new contract.
For that reason, my hope is that he ends the uncertainty and commits to Everton. The club have money now and say they’re going places; securing Koeman and Lukaku would be a huge statement.
This is the second cycle of his managerial career, having patiently rebuilt it after losing his job at Valencia, which could have been a launchpad for returning to Barca.
Camp Nou will remain an attraction, but I hope he has grown attached enough to the English game – as Antonio Conte quickly seems to have with Chelsea – to want to stay on Merseyside for three more years, get them into the Champions League, and take his next steps from there.