Ronald Koeman took a risk this summer, whether that risk was forced upon him or not.
He has shown at Southampton that he is a talented manager with the ability to perform impressively in mid-table, and on a budget. He has the demeanour of a man who will not entertain duffers in his side, or even his squad. He likes to make fools suffer.
His distaste for Louis van Gaal suggests that he will not indulge hoity-toity nonsense from those around him, whoever they may be. Yet, he has found himself at Everton, with a billionaire owner, but with Wayne Rooney in his squad.
In 2016, Farhad Moshiri, with business interests in Russia and Britain, and a net worth of more than $2 billion, bought almost half the club. Regardless of whether or not he wants to treat Everton seriously or merely as a trophy to elevate his public stature, he has given Everton plenty of money.
Jordan Pickford, Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Keane, Ashley Williams, Yannick Bolasie, Sandro Ramirez, Cuco Martina, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klaassen, Nikola Vlasic and Ademola Lookman have arrived as well as Rooney.
For such an extensive approach to recruitment, all of the purchases look reasonable and – save for the questionably-praised Sigurdsson – for a fair price. There is nothing to suggest it will aid the club find the Champions League places, but it should establish them as ready to take advantage of any poor form from the traditionally bigger clubs.
There is also the chance that Everton will be able to move to a new, council-funded stadium. While television broadcast rights are now far more important than ticket sales, the increased revenue and advantages of a new ground will be a financial aid, and helps them keep up with other clubs in new digs.
Everton have a billionaire owner. They have a new ground on the horizon. They have a new and well-funded team. Koeman should be ready to improve the side further this season, and convince the new owners that he deserves yet more cash to break into the top four. It is an excellent opportunity for any manager, and a great one for a man of Koeman’s talents.
That task is made a great deal harder with Rooney present. Rooney was brought to the club as an example to younger players on how to comport themselves professionally. He is to show other the way to make the most of themselves professionally.
It is hard to credit that this is the real justification. Before the last week and a bit, when Rooney was reportedly in such a state as to be charged with drink driving, it didn’t stand up to scrutiny. Rooney was an example to youngsters as what not to do to make the most of their career. Given his remarkable decline, there has been unjustified revisionism of just how good Rooney was.
In his early days at United, it was not unfair to speculate who would achieve more out of him and Cristiano Ronaldo. It was Ronaldo, not regularly caught out with booze and cigarettes, declining in strength, speed and ability, who ran swiftly ahead of him.
It is easy to assume that the reasons given in public are not necessarily the truth. It makes more sense to regard Rooney as a bauble brought back to Goodison for sentimental reasons. Bill Kenwright might have sold most of his shares in Everton, but he will be remembered not just as the chairman who had to sell Rooney, but who was able to bring him back.
Rooney has largely been welcomed back with affection to the club after a few years of antagonism and niggling. Once a blue, always a blue – after a decade in red. For Moshiri, he now owns a club with the most famous and most marketable English player in the world. For business or for his own reputation, it makes sense.
It doesn’t for football, though. As Koeman clearly wanted Diego Costa on loan from Chelsea, he plainly did not think he had enough strength in attack following the loss of Romelu Lukaku to United. Oumar Niasse, Sandro and a collection of youngsters are the other options.
Koeman’s difficulty is not that he has been afforded meagre funds. He has been given a decent provision, and what he has brought in with Steve Walsh seems utterly sensible and promising. He isn’t under any kind of serious pressure from the fans, as he has shown that defending isn’t the impossible art that Roberto Martinez thought it was. And he isn’t under pressure through any of his own choices.
There is an elephant in the room for Koeman, and it is the one that stamped all over David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho’s first season at United. It is that he has a wretched presence who wants to play first team football in the Premier League, and doesn’t have the professionalism to make the most of his waning talents.
Koeman has spent millions of pounds, and has a billionaire owner who presumably thinks that Champions League football is a reasonable expectation in the coming seasons. Koeman is an excellent manager, but now he has to work out how to deliver this with a figurehead player not only dragging himself down, but perhaps dragging the rest of the squad down with him.