Replacing Ancelotti: Everton’s Nightmare

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If you’d have placed a big bet on Carlo Ancelotti replacing Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid manager one month ago, you’d currently be sat on a lot of money. Football can still be a shocking sport at times, and what’s happened in Madrid during these past few days has been as shocking as anything we’ve seen in years. Zinedine Zidane – three times a Champions League winner as the club’s coach but trophyless this season – is gone. Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti has returned to the club to replace him as Real Madrid goes “back to the future” yet again with its managers. We could write a whole article about Madrid’s managerial merry-go-round – and we might well do soon – but today, we’re focusing on Everton. 

We’ve already said that you’d have made a lot of money betting on Ancelotti leaving Everton for Madrid, but you’d have made even more if you’d successfully bet on Everton’s last four or five managers. The average bookmaker wouldn’t even be able to reconcile the odds on the changes we’ve seen at the club – the odds would be more akin to those you’d find at an online slots website. Perhaps that’s an even better metaphor. When you’ve spun the reels and lost at online slots, the only way forward is to spin the reels again in the hope of getting a better result next time. That’s the approach that owner Farhad Moshiri has used since taking control of Everton in 2016. He hasn’t been shy of “spinning again,” and when he attracted Ancelotti to the club, he must have felt like he’d just hit the jackpot at Rose Slots for New Zealand players. The highly-respected Champions League-winning coach was the biggest name to sit in the Everton hot seat for generations. Unfortunately for Moshiri, Ancelotti has been playing an online slots game of his own, and he’s decided to try spinning again elsewhere. 

As abrupt as Ancelotti’s departure has been, Everton fans shouldn’t hold it against him. Very few managers would turn down an approach from Real Madrid, and at this stage of his career, the Italian is aware that he’s unlikely to get the call again if he turns it down. In the past, he’d spoken of hoping for a long stay at Goodison Park. He’d even suggested that he might still be in charge of the club in 2025, which is when the Toffees hope to move into a brand new state-of-the-art stadium. We now know that won’t happen. What we’ll never know is how much a break-in at his Merseyside home in February this year affected his happiness in the area. Before the break-in, Ancelotti spoke of Everton as “a family club” in a “beautiful” area. He never used such glowing terms again after his home was invaded and may have been planning his departure ever since. 

The whys and hows of Ancelotti’s departure don’t really matter. The key takeaway is that he’s gone, and he’s not coming back. That leaves Moshiri and his fellow board members looking to recruit a fifth full-time Everton manager since 2016 – a fact that will frustrate all of them. With the exception of Sam Allardyce, who was hired in 2018 to ensure the club stayed out of the relegation zone, none of Everton’s hires were supposed to be short-term. Ronald Koeman, now somehow in charge of Barcelona, was supposed to be a long-term hire. Marco Silva, who came in after Allardyce, was a man Everton had wanted for years and believed would lead them on to glory. When that didn’t work out, and Ancelotti came in, that ought to have been it for at least the next few years. Koeman and Silva were fired for underperformance. It was never likely that Ancelotti would suffer the same fate, even after Everton’s performances tailed off in the second half of the past season and the club finished 10th in the Premier League. Moshiri would have forgiven that. Ancelotti left anyway. 

Where Everton go from here is unclear. They’d probably love to bring Zidane to Merseyside in a straight swap for Ancelotti, but it’s unlikely Zidane would consider taking over as coach of a club outside the Champions League. Some of the rumours we’re hearing at the moment are jaw-dropping. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, who recently won the Scottish Premiership with Rangers, is apparently a candidate. Gerrard grew up as an Everton fan, but that isn’t likely to make fans of either club forget who he spent his playing career with if he were to take the job. Another surprising name is Gerrard’s former manager at Liverpool, Rafa Benitez. The Spanish coach is, like Gerrard, a legend at Anfield. If he were to take the Everton job, it would spoil the memories that many Liverpool fans have of him, and a significant proportion of Everton fans would never accept him. 

There are less likely candidates in the running, too. Frank Lampard, whose failure at Chelsea only looks worse now Thomas Tuchel has won the Champions League with the same players Lampard couldn’t persuade to perform, is thought to be interested. Wayne Rooney’s name has come up as well. Rooney is an Everton legend despite spending most of his career with Manchester United, but his only managerial experience to date is a torrid half-season with Derby County that almost ended in relegation. He’s done nothing to suggest that he’s capable of edging Everton closer to the top-four finish that Moshiri and the fans so desperately desire. Former manager David Moyes is unlikely to leave high-flying West Ham to come back. Former Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo is more likely to end up at Spurs than Everton. 

The fact that both Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace are also seeking new managers at the moment complicated Everton’s situation further. Crystal Palace is the smallest club of the three, but any high profile manager of interest to Everton will also likely be of interest to Spurs – and Spurs are probably the bigger draw. That might make Eddie Howe the best fit for the job. He recently turned down an offer from Celtic because he wants to work in the Premier League again. Is Everton right for him? Is he right for Everton? There’s only one way to find out – and Everton might have no better option other than to take it. 

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