Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Carlo Ancelotti leaves Everton: ‘Italian’s exit to Real Madrid major blow to Toffees’ ambitions’

When Carlo Ancelotti walked into Goodison Park’s directors’ box on 21 December 2019, traditional Yuletide songs were blaring over the public address system and Everton owner Farhad Moshiri looked like a man whose Christmases had all come at once.

This was the moment Moshiri had waited for since buying a major stake in Everton in February 2016 and he was beaming as he stood alongside the “Hollywood” manager he craved.Everton’s hierarchy will have been left reeling by the speed of events which went from Ancelotti talking about long-term planning to telling them he wanted to return to Real Madrid, where he won the Champions League in 2014.

There must be a measure of sympathy for Everton’s board because this is a move that came out of nowhere and only shortly after Ancelotti seemed to publicly suggest his time at Real was firmly in his past.

Everton’s moves in the managerial and playing markets have left them open to criticism in the past but it is hard to pin blame on them for this. They will have been left as shell-shocked as their supporters by this sudden, unexpected twist.

Moshiri must be left wondering when he will find the stability and success he wants after five years of vast outlay, five managers in Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce, Marco Silva and Ancelotti and not even a place in next season’s European competitions.

It is also a cold shower on Everton’s stated ambitions of joining European football’s elite, an aim Moshiri hoped he had finally cracked by hiring Ancelotti.

The Italian could only take Everton to 10th in a mixed season, thus leaving them still highly vulnerable to so-called European royalty such as Real Madrid poaching prize assets, in this case their manager.

This will have been a desperately disappointing and frustrating turn of events for Moshiri, who saw Ancelotti as the figurehead, successful manager who would finally fulfil all of his aspirations for Everton.

Where now for Everton?From planning for summer activity in the transfer market to another managerial search – this would not have been on the Everton board’s agenda even just a few days ago.

So who could fill the seat vacated by 61-year-old Ancelotti?

A factor worth remembering in this complicated equation is Moshiri, who has shown he is prepared to fund a huge contract to attract managers such as Ancelotti.

It is impossible to believe elite, available names such as Antonio Conte and Zinedine Zidane would show any interest in managing Everton, but if they did Moshiri would move everything, particularly his wallet, to get them.

Instead, he may have to settle for more realistic targets who can build a structure, and eventually success, over time if allowed.

One of the most important figures at the club is director of football Marcel Brands, who has just signed a new contract.

If he is as influential as Everton suggest, surely he must have huge input into the club’s next manager.

The names surfacing so far are the predictable ones.

Former Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Nuno Espirito Santo is understood to have admirers in Everton’s boardroom. He has been linked with Crystal Palace but the idea of Goodison Park will surely appeal.

Eddie Howe was considered before Ancelotti was appointed and may well be mentioned again. David Moyes effectively had the job until Ancelotti was sacked by Napoli but his time has probably gone after restoring his reputation by leading West Ham United superbly. He has verbally agreed a new deal which is waiting to be signed.

Brighton’s Graham Potter is highly regarded by the likes of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola but will he carry enough heft for Moshiri?

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez fits the bill in a similar way to Ancelotti, vastly experienced, knows the Premier League and a Champions League winner in 2005 with Liverpool and Europa League winner with Chelsea in 2013.

Benitez lives in the area and has the thick skin and concrete-clad confidence to take the task on – in fact it is almost certain he would accept the job if it was offered to him – but it would be a huge leap by Everton’s board not only to appoint a former Liverpool manager, but one who had a decidedly uneasy relationship with supporters on the blue half of Merseyside when he was at Anfield.

The bottom line is that Moshiri and Everton’s board must gather their thoughts swiftly in this vital summer for the club.

How will Ancelotti be remembered at Goodison?Ancelotti was very popular with Everton’s fans who were elated that a manager of such pedigree would join them.

He bought into the club and the area, extolling the virtues of Crosby, where he lived, while saying and doing all the right things.

Ancelotti’s track record at Everton was mixed, although he rarely had the luxury of managing in the traditionally intense and hostile Goodison Park atmosphere because of the lack of fans as a result of Covid-19.

Everton achieved their first win at Liverpool since 1999, a real high point and cause for celebration, but they were not exactly easy on the eye and home form was horrendous, with losses against relegated duo Fulham and Sheffield United. The likes of Newcastle United and Aston Villa also had deserved wins at Goodison Park.

Ancelotti’s reputation attracted James Rodriguez from Real Madrid and while the Colombian sparkled when fully fit, his lengthy absences made him a luxury item. It will be intriguing to see if he plays for Everton again.

Allan showed glimpses of quality after re-joining Ancelotti from Napoli, while Abdoulaye Doucoure was a success. Ben Godfrey, signed from Norwich City, had an outstanding season.

Ancelotti also leaves with a question that accompanied him on his arrival unanswered. Is he more of a facilitator of top players, successful with AC Milan and “Galacticos” like Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, than a manager who can build from the bottom up, which was his task at Everton?

There was no concrete evidence of the latter in his 18 months at Goodison Park and he leaves before anyone knows the answer.

It is, however, a bitter pill for Everton to swallow as they find themselves in familiar territory, with Moshiri once again looking for the manager to bring him that elusive success

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