Early Doors

Phil Neville: This summer’s hottest property

Early Doors

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Phil Neville confirmed the end of his playing days last weekend but the news of his retirement barely caused a ripple.

Maybe that was because we all knew what was coming - he had, after all, said his goodbyes at Everton's final home game of the season, although ostensibly that was just his final game for the Toffees, and not necessarily the end of his career as a player.

His decision to leave Goodison, nevertheless, was largely overshadowed by other big-names calling time on their careers at the same time: the likes of former Manchester United team-mate Paul Scholes and old England colleagues Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen also took their final bow that day.

And a certain Alex Ferguson decided enough was enough too, with his successor in the Old Trafford hotseat David Moyes also appearing as an Evertonian for the final time, further deflecting attention away from the hanging up of those 'P Nev 18' Nike boots.

And that's not to mention what had happened the night before when the not-so-shy but retiring David Beckham's tears flowed as freely as a 1996-vintage Red Devils move, monopolising column inches from Manchester to Manila - and everywhere in between. These were the preferred stories of the national and international media that week.

Even once Neville made it official last Saturday, reaction was rather muted. Certainly, this column failed to react, instead plumping to opine in the days since on such matters as England U21s' shambolic displays in Israel and what would have happened had John Terry lamped Wayne Bridge in a Walkabout pub. Nothing wrong with that, of course, they're both entirely appropriate and engaging subject matters for these pages, it's just interesting that the Neville story has been overlooked until now, nearly a week later.

In many ways that's lamentable and perhaps Neville, considering his achievements as a player and a servant to two great clubs and one not-so-great nation, deserved more of a grandiose send-off. But how it played out is exactly how he wanted it.

"Three weeks ago, everyone in the world seemed to be retiring. I thought: 'I'm not jumping on this bandwagon.' I just wanted it to be a smooth, quiet turnover," said Neville, typically, following his definitive announcement.

"When I made a statement that I was leaving Everton, everywhere I went I seemed to be getting: 'Oh you've been brilliant.' I didn't like it. I didn't want to be seen as an attention seeker."

Neville has never sought the spotlight. And any time he did find it shining on him, the focus was unwelcome. Not like his bolder and brasher older brother Gary, who revelled in controversy during his playing career and has since made a decent second profession out of it.

Now it's time for the younger of the Neville brothers to seek out a new path too. While he comes across as intelligent, thoughtful and eloquent in interviews and his rare appearances as a pundit, he has already admitted he needs action to be fulfilled. Nobody wants a bored retiree moping around the house, least of all his lovely wife Julie. A new career in management surely awaits.

Since the end of the season, Neville has become the hottest property in football coaching; rather surprisingly, given his relative lack of experience in that department, yet somewhat understandable considering his potential and background.

While Stuart Pearce may find it difficult to find gainful employment for a while - having become the whipping boy for the U21s failure, regardless of how he was doomed even before a ball was kicked - Neville, who worked with Pearce in Israel, is in huge demand.

Moyes is thought to be keen on luring him back to Old Trafford, while the Scot's replacement at Goodison Roberto Martinez wants him to stay put on Merseyside and be part of his backroom staff. He was even touted for the manager's job there before Martinez arrived, while Tony Pulis, before he was shunted out of the Britannia door, was planning on Neville moving to Stoke.

It's not difficult to see why there is so much interest. Neville boasts a wealth of playing experience that includes Champions League campaigns, World Cups and European Championships. It's not just any old coach who can impart such knowledge to his charges.

He has already completed his 'A' Licence  badge at the national football centre at St George's Park and has spent the last couple of years of his playing career - maybe even longer than that - with one eye on the future. That means he has been astutely taking notes, observing and learning from some of the best in the business. And Stuart Pearce. (Apologies, that was a cheap and unnecessary shot.)

At the age of 36, there's no doubt Neville is ready to make this move and his mark on the world of coaching - and then, in time, management. His desire to succeed (no doubt forged in the highly competitive Neville household as a child and then taken to a new level under Ferguson at United), demeanour, thoughtfulness and experience as a player make him in many ways an ideal candidate for a position on the training ground.

He may even go on from there to garner more attention in the dugout than he ever did on the pitch. Not that he would want to make any waves.

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Neville walks through the guard of honour at Everton's final home game of the season (PA Photos)

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FOREIGN VIEW: "Victor Valdes's representative has officially told (sports director Andoni) Zubizarreta that the player will complete his contract. We are delighted he will be with us next year." Barcelona president Sandro Rosell expresses his pleasure at Victor Valdes's decision to honour his contract and stay on in the Catalan capital for one final season. Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina had expressed a desire to replace Valdes at the Camp Nou, had the Spaniard joined the footballing 'project' at Monaco this summer. Reina could now find himself in limbo at Anfield.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Edi is talking with Real Madrid and with City. Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis has spoken of something with Chelsea, but there is nothing concrete. In 15-20 days we will know more and be in a position to say something, when there is something concrete his family will be first to know. In any case, I assure you that Edinson loves Napoli and if he has to go, he will never forget the love and affection of the people. He will be united with Napoli forever.”  Tired of hearing baseless rumours and meaningless gossip during the transfer window? Want concrete news? Speak to Edinson Cavani's mum Berta Gomez.

COMING UP: Not a great deal of live football today, but Eurobot will be here as usual to bring you the latest rumours and deals from the transfer market, Andy Murray is in action once again at Queen's and Luke Donald will look to confirm his lead over Phil Mickelson at the US Open.

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