Ronald Koeman in trademark trendy coat watching on as Southampton manager.

And now for something completely different.

Financial strength and boardroom impetus has enabled Everton to prise an ambitious, trophy-winning manager from the Premier League top six and into the dugout at Goodison. After two years of rebuild and progress at Southampton, Ronald Koeman has cast his lot with a fallen stalwart of English football on the cusp of change. No doubt the reported £6m-a-year salary twisted the arm but then that’s precisely the point.

Farhad Moshiri talked a good game when introduced as Everton’s major shareholder in February. “There is much to be done” began the outlining of his plans in the match day programme as Chelsea visited for the FA Cup quarter-final. The billionaire buzzphrases were all there: “providing additional funds”, “retaining our key players”, “strong core to build on”, “looking at the best options [for the] stadium”. Four months on, we have substance. Moshiri has not only begun to walk the walk, his first step was more of a leap. He has essentially rebranded Everton: wealthy, ambitious, proactive.

The former Arsenal shareholder spent the three weeks between Roberto Martinez’s sacking and Koeman’s appointment wisely. He interviewed several managers including Manuel Pellegrini, Unai Emery and David Moyes, but favoured Koeman’s brand of efficient, attacking football from the start. And with good reason. The Dutchman has won titles in his homeland with Ajax and PSV, and trophies abroad with Benfica and Valencia. Recently he took charge of middling Feyenoord and finished out of the top two just once – on goal difference – during his three-year reign, before securing consecutive best Premier League finishes for Southampton. Even the relative black marks of his 16-year managerial career, Benfica, Valencia and Alkmaar, bore silverware. In short, Koeman has an excellent track record.

Some view Everton as a step-down which, I suppose, accurately describes leaving a club in sixth for one in eleventh. But the wider context, both historical and prospective, must be acknowledged. There’s a clear distinction, even in its infancy, between the ambitionless safety of Bill Kenwright and the optimistic, financially-competitive future under Moshiri. The latter’s only involvement in the Martinez era was to end it, to separate Everton from the recent past. He has made Koeman one of the best paid managers in the world, promised him a transfer budget reportedly in the £150m ballpark, and still hopes with some encouragement to create a director of football role for Sevilla’s Monchi. Already, this is a fundamentally different Everton. Mere weeks have passed, but comparing Southampton now to Everton then is comparing different eras.

Ronald Koeman celebrating one of his 67 Barcelona goals at the Camp Nou, just under a quarter of his career total of 239 - better than any other defender ever.A winner in the dugout

Koeman may have been given assurances in terms of keeping key players, but you’d imagine Romelu Lukaku will be off if Everton can find a buyer. The Dutchman does however improve chances of keeping Stones. If you have an in-demand ball-playing centre-half, hiring the highest scoring defender of all time to coach him seems like a fine response to a problem. In fact, unlikely as it is, Koeman’s roaming sweeper role from Barcelona may well be the ideal position for Stones. Either way, Koeman’s proven, effective methods can offer Stones what Martinez denied him: a proper defensive education.

Koeman will rattle a few cages at Goodison. The Dutchman’s feisty side, belied by his blushing River Island Tin Tin appearance, is considerable. He can be severe. He alienated Valencia fans by telling legends David Albelda, Miguel Angulo and Santiago Canizares to find new clubs two months into his six-month Mestalla spell. Albelda unsuccessfully tried to sue the club for constructive dismissal. He watched Southampton’s U-21s beat their Chelsea counterparts 1-0 in January before harshly saying: “I wasn’t impressed. I look to the development of young players and still they have to learn a lot”. He leaves players out for turning up late to training. However, this sort of ruthless authority is just what Everton need, and Moshiri seeking it out bodes well.

Everton’s current squad has plenty of talent but lots of problems. Poor fitness, bad defending, non-existent game-management, minimal hunger to win, no killer instinct, no backbone to not even name them all. Fortunately, none of this could be levelled at Koeman’s Southampton. However, the academy issue is crucial. Koeman’s reluctance to use Southampton’s youngsters was deemed a divergence from Dutch principles but it may well have been a comment on their ability. Even so, Everton have several excellent U-21 prospects ready for the first team. Koeman has developed youth throughout his career, but now must pair this with the sort of game-changing signings £150m can buy.

It’s a considerable challenge to fully clear the cobwebs of complacency at Goodison, but Everton have a bona fide winner in the dugout for the first time in an age. And if Koeman’s arrival represents the start of ambition, by all means, Farhad, crack on.
By Chris Smith
Follow me on Twitter @cdsmith789 

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  • Stuart Wilson

    Probably one of the best clear precise reads about Everton/Koeman/Moshiri i have read so far this summer.

  • oliver hayward

    Agreed on all points, Moshiri is not messing around! Its nice to see Everton act ruthlessly for a change instead of being the doormats of the league. I feel bad for the Saints fans …well some of them… but there is no room in football for niceties anymore (was there ever?).

    Realistically i think that its going to take a long while to sort Everton out, both defensively and in terms of player attitude. I would not be surprised to see quite a few faces out the door. Fortunately with a reported 150 million plus player sales it looks like Koeman is going to have the cash to rebuild the team.

  • Thomas Jones

    After sacking RB and our crappy season I was amazed to read that our season ticket sales were at a record high. Now that Koeman is the manager and things are looking so much brighter we must be sold out.