Everton’s Run-In Could Be Powered By The Koeman Speculation
An unwelcome shadow threatens to hang over the remainder of Everton’s promising end to this season. No matter how many times Ronald Koeman publicly denies it or how hard supporters try to ignore it, the Dutchman’s link with Barcelona simply refuses to disappear.
Long-suffering Evertonians are no strangers to months and even years of idle links which has plagued several of their greatest assets. Ross Barkley, John Stones and, more recently, Romelu Lukaku have all regularly been touted for moves away from Goodison Park. Managers have similarly failed to prove immune to the speculation merry-go-round; one has already been lost to the allure of a supposedly greener grass, albeit after 11 years at the helm. David Moyes was apparently in the frame to take the reins at Chelsea before being anointed as Manchester United’s much-maligned ‘Chosen One’. His Everton successor was far more susceptible to such tittle tattle, with Roberto Martinez touted as Arsene Wenger’s eventual replacement at Arsenal and even an outside contender to lead Barcelona. Koeman now finds himself following in his predecessor’s footsteps in one aspect at least. With Luis Enrique refusing to commit to a new contract at the Nou Camp, the ante has been firmly upped on Koeman’s prospective Catalan return in recent months and, notably, the past week.
Frank de Boer and his agent have done their utmost to undermine the Everton manager with claims that he is destined for a return to his former stomping ground. Bookmakers, meanwhile, have begun slashing odds on his next destination. Odds continue to be slashed and his name remains firmly touted for a return. Other names remain in contention to succeed Enrique, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel to name just two, but the sense of unfinished business for Koeman at a club where he was an iconic player and later Louis van Gaal’s deputy continues at pace. The rumours, conjecture and uncertainty will only intensify in the wake of Barcelona’s Champions League humbling at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain this week. Ordinarily, it would be a potential distraction that Everton can ill afford, especially with the prospect of European qualification once again in the offing. The indelible connection to his former club has become a perennial reference point throughout the current campaign but could derail a push for a continental spot as Moyes’ Old Trafford coronation did in the final months of 2012/13.
Despite sharing strong-willed traits, however, Koeman and Moyes are very different managers in unique situations. The Everton of today is a very different club from the one that fell short of a continental spot just four seasons ago. With big ambitions has come a greater scrutiny, rather than the plucky narrative which went before. The media circus enveloping the current Blues boss may actually allow his side to sneak further under the radar in their battle for a top six finish. Whether he is forced to confront the prospect in the summer is an entirely different matter, and one which Everton will hope remains confined to speculation.