When announcing the departure of Marcel Brands as director of football on 5 December Everton revealed that: “a strategic review of the football structure will now take place which will inform the best model for the club to proceed with in the long-term.” A clean slate to implement the findings has materialised at a most inopportune moment but Farhad Moshiri must capitalise all the same.
As the threat of a relegation fight grows increasingly real at Goodison Park Everton find themselves lacking not only consensus among the hierarchy, a clear football plan and sufficient character within the dressing room. They also have no director of football following the exit of Brands, eight months after he signed a lucrative three-year contract, no head of recruitment and development nor a manager of scouting and operations after the previous incumbents, Gretar Steinsson and Dan Purdy respectively, decided to leave with the Dutchman.
There is no manager either now after results, more than any connection with Liverpool, did for Rafael Benítez. On Monday it was announced his assistant manager Francisco de Miguel Moreno, first team coach and senior analyst Antonio Gómez, head of sports science Jamie Harley and first team rehabilitation coach Cristian Fernández had also left the club with immediate effect. Fernández was hired in October after Benítez’s review into Everton’s medical department and concern over injuries led to Dan Donachie’s exit as director of medical services.
“How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours,” was the Wayne Dyer quote that Donachie tweeted on Sunday, the day Benítez was sacked six months into a three-year contract. That’s another hefty compensation bill loaded on to a club that has been carefully navigating Premier League profit and sustainability rules since last summer. Benítez was never told how tight finances would be when he met Moshiri on board Alisher Usmanov’s yacht in Sardinia to finalise an appointment that had car crash written all over it from the start. Only two people, Benítez and Moshiri, appear to have been convinced otherwise.
It has always perplexed why Moshiri, Everton’s billionaire majority shareholder, did not install his own executive upon arriving at the club in 2016 and instead maintained an unsuccessful status quo. Many of Moshiri’s actions have bewildered, from clearly ill-suited managerial appointments to heeding the advice of a few influential agents that have cost him a fortune in bad signings.
The recent mass exodus and on-going strategic review offers Moshiri opportunity to demonstrate he does have a plan for bringing to fruition his vision for the club, beyond that of the new stadium currently under construction at Bramley Moore Dock. Growing criticism of an owner upon whom the stadium depends, and at a time when Everton’s Premier League status is far from secure, leaves the club in a precarious position.
Everton must pray Moshiri has learned from his mistakes. The early signs are not encouraging. At his final pre-match press conference as Everton manager Benítez refused to comment on claims that the recent signing of Anwar El Ghazi had been imposed on him by the club’s owner. Benítez had wanted a central midfielder. He got a winger from Aston Villa out of the negotiations to sell Lucas Digne instead.
Then there is the early move to install Roberto Martínez as Benítez’s replacement. As with several former Everton managers, underwhelming at Goodison has not been an impediment to succeeding elsewhere for Martínez, who has remained close to chairman Bill Kenwright since being sacked by Moshiri in 2016. Everton fans staged sit-in protests calling for the removal of the likeable Belgium head coach, who received a pay-off in excess of £10m after a legal dispute with Moshiri. His would be another divisive appointment and, if led by Kenwright, further evidence of a hierarchy pulling in different directions. Moshiri overlooked Martínez’s claims last summer.
Everton’s strategic review should involve the club’s majority shareholder, chairman and fellow board members – excluding Graeme Sharp, who has only just been appointed – holding a mirror to their own performances. Under-achievement predates the arrival of Moshiri and his money. Whatever his failings at Everton, and there were many, Benítez’s insistence that improvement was needed in all departments at the club was not among them.
The path is clear for Moshiri to implement the sweeping changes Everton require but, with the team six points above the relegation zone, the priority is to stay afloat. Root-and-branch reviews may have to wait. Everton are seeking their sixth permanent manager in six years. They have to get one right before it’s too late.