There is no escaping the risk that came with Everton appointing a manager of Carlo Ancelotti’s pedigree within the game 18 months ago.
In opting to pursue the Italian over other candidates that included David Moyes, Everton knew the potential for a more illustrious club – especially with a track record of success under his stewardship – expressing an interest should their house need putting back in order.
I would like to thank Everton FC, my players and the supporters for giving me the opportunity to manage this fantastic and historical club. I decided to leave as I have a new challenge with a team that was always in my heart, Real Madrid. pic.twitter.com/SDV8T7qMDR
What will sting for supporters are the words of Ancelotti, just a week after his Crosby family house had been burgled and shortly after he had ended Everton’s 22-year wait for a win at Anfield back in February.
“I would like to be there when the new stadium is opened,” he said. “It will be a good achievement for me. To finish the contract here in 2024 means that you did a good job and when you do a good job the contract will not be stopped in 2024. It will continue. The time I spent here is one year and I have felt really good so I would like to stay as long as possible.”
But Real Madrid have replaced a three-time Champions League winner with another, going back to an old face in the same way they replaced Santiago Solari with Zinedine Zidane in March 2019. The Everton board will be meeting on Tuesday night to discuss possible replacements.
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It is worth remembering how the 61-year-old arrived at Goodison Park in the first place.
His stock had plummeted after an acrimonious departure from Napoli. The Serie A club’s owner Aurelio De Laurentiis brought an end to his 16-month stay and fired him less than an hour after qualifying for the Champions League knockout round.
De Laurentiis cited poor domestic form; Napoli were seventh in Serie A, eight points outside the top four and 17 off the summit. His departure came on December 10, 2019 – but just 11 days later, he was sensationally appointed Everton boss.
This was a man who has won 15 major trophies during his career and is one of only three managers to win three European Cups/Champions Leagues – along with Liverpool legend Bob Paisley and Zidane.
Everton were 15th in Premier League and four points outside of the relegation zone when this serial winner became the club’s fourth permanent manager in 21 months.
Naturally, there were those who were sceptical about hiring a manager renowned for short spells and instant success in the hotseat at a club that had been in disarray towards the end of Marco Silva’s tenure.
Ancelotti relished the fresh challenge, however, and quickly fell in love with his coastal home, growing a strong affinity with supporters starved of success.
He stabilised Everton in the second half of the 2019/20 season, guiding the club safely away from any relegation trouble while assessing those he wanted to build his side around in a bid to bring European football back in his first full campaign.
Alongside director of football Marcel Brands, last summer’s recruitment proved to be very fruitful; Ancelotti was reunited with Allan, while Abdoulaye Doucoure was signed for £25m from Watford as the perceived midfield weakness was addressed.
Goalkeeper Robin Olsen was brought in on loan and the Swede has provided good competition for Jordan Pickford, while James Rodriguez was the marquee buy from Real Madrid, a coup with the added bonus of being effectively a free transfer.
While James has blown hot and cold, undermined by niggling injuries, the pick of the bunch has been Ben Godfrey, signed in a £25m deal from Norwich. The versatile defender has become a fans’ favourite and his form was rewarded with a place in Gareth Southgate’s 33-man provisional England squad for Euro 2020.
Ancelotti’s pulling power most certainly played a part in convincing James to join, and while the club’s hopes of landing players of a similar reputation within the game will naturally dwindle, dissenters will claim Everton were in danger of becoming a semi-retirement home for fallen stars.
Everton were the early-season pace-setters, winning their opening seven games in all competitions. Ancelotti was named manager of the month for September, naturally leading to form falling off, but his side still sat second on Boxing Day.
Key to the improvement on the previous term had been the team’s away form which would end up being the fourth-best in the league – 11 wins on the road was their most in a season since the 1984/85 title winners. But just six wins at home – the 15th worst record in the division – put paid to any European aspirations.
Ancelotti was at times bullet-proof among supporters when results were not materialising at Goodison; his team selection after an away defeat at Newcastle was criticised but the blame was largely placed on the players rather than his tactics when inconsistency became an ever-increasing problem.
The manner in which Everton’s results tailed off towards the end of the campaign to finish 10th, leaving fans with an overwhelming sense of disappointment, certainly placed a sour note on what had been an encouraging season.
For Ancelotti, it could well have been a contributing factor in his decision to pull the plug – acutely aware of the size of the task still ahead come the time of his ninth home reverse to rock bottom Sheffield United in May. He seemed worryingly short on answers as to how to rectify it.
The 5-0 demolition at the hands of champions Manchester City on the final day underlined the extent to which the squad requires surgery over the summer, but this isn’t a case of hitting the reset button.
Majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri has shown he is fully committed to bringing success back to the blue half of Merseyside, none more so than in his pursuit of Ancelotti, whose contract was estimated to be worth £11.5 million a year.
The billionaire has overseen £500m spent on transfers alone since arriving in February 2016, while the development of a new stadium will cost a further £500m.
While the club’s failure to qualify for European competition will have impacted transfer targets, it was believed that Moshiri was ready to provide Ancelotti the freedom to oversee another summer of heavy spending. There will be no shortage of suitors applying for the position.
Outside of the traditional ‘Big Six’, the Everton managerial role is still one of the biggest and most coveted in English football. The new 52,000-capacity ground at Bramley-Moore Dock in 2024 points towards appointing a manager who can grow alongside a team that is flooded with exciting potential.
Nuno Espirito Santo – who is the frontrunner for the Crystal Palace job – and Eddie Howe have been linked with the vacancy, while West Ham are confident a new three-year contract extension will tempt David Moyes away from a return to his former club.
Rangers manager and ex-Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is another shock name in the frame. Others reportedly being considered include Rafa Benitez, Paulo Fonseca, Erik ten Hag and Roberto Martinez.
After the failure of Ancelotti’s predecessors, his replacement must be an ambitious coach who reflects the club’s image and is fully committed to investing his future in Everton’s long-term vision.
Supporters were under no illusion that becoming Champions League contenders within 18 months was an unrealistic target, but one of Ancelotti’s final interviews pointed towards a man who was in it for the long haul.
“I still believe we are on the right way to fight and compete for the first positions in the Premier League, considering what happened this season,” he said.
“This season confirmed the fact that we were really competitive, above all against the strongest teams in the competition, against United, Liverpool, Chelsea.
“We got results from those games and that gave confidence to me and to the club for the future. The team has improved, and I am sure of this: the team will be more competitive.”
Ultimately it wasn’t enough to resist Real’s calling card, which has still proven to work when it comes to luring a manager at the Premier League’s 10th-placed club.
While Ancelotti’s time may have ended prematurely, Everton must take with them the progress made during his reign and continue building for a bright future.
Everton’s summer transfer plans analysed
The transfer window opens on June 9 but after seeing early promise fizzle out, what do Everton need to do this summer?
Everton will be looking to provide more cover for Dominic Calvert-Lewin this summer following the limited impact of Josh King after his January move from Bournemouth.
The club will make a decision on the future of forward Moise Kean, whose successful loan spell at Paris Saint-Germain was agreed without an option to buy.
The Merseysiders are keen to prolong goalkeeper Robin Olsen’s stay with his own loan agreement from Roma at an end. The Sweden international deputised well for Jordan Pickford when called upon this season.
Carlo Ancelotti has also targeted a successor for club captain Seamus Coleman since last summer, with Norwich right-back Max Aarons on their shortlist and available for around £30m.
Theo Walcott has made a permanent switch to Southampton but Everton will also likely offload Yannick Bolasie this summer to make way for another attacking wide player to provide competition across the forward line.
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