Just over 12 months ago, Ronald Koeman left Southampton to take over the reins at Everton, leaving many wondering whether the Dutchman was taking a backwards step in his managerial career.
After all, he had just led the Saints to their best-ever Premier League finish, ending the campaign in sixth place, 16 points ahead of the Toffees, who found themselves in the bottom half of the table, in 11th.
— NinetyMinutesOnline (@90MinsOnline) July 13, 2017
A few months earlier, in February, Farhad Moshiri became Everton’s majority shareholder, promising to give the club “whatever I have” and was true to his word when he awarded Koeman a three-year contract reportedly worth £6 million-a-year, to replace the dismissed Roberto Martinez.
Since then, the 54-year-old has enjoyed the Iranian businessman’s full support, investing heavily in a squad deemed in need of rebuilding.
In his first transfer window last summer, Koeman welcomed a host of new arrivals, namely Idrissa Gueye, Ashley Williams, Maarten Stekelenburg and Yannick Bolasie, although the latter suffered a season-ending injury in December and is unlikely to feature again until the turn of the year.
January saw highly-rated teenager Ademola Lookman and Manchester United’s Morgan Schneiderlin arrive at Goodison Park, and by the end of the season, the Toffees had managed to secure Europa League football, courtesy of their seventh-place Premier League finish.
Although his first season in charge should be considered a success, Koeman is not one to rest on his laurels and he has already made six new signings totalling more than £80 million, making Everton the Premier League’s most-active club in this summer’s transfer market so far.
So, what would constitute a successful second season in charge at Goodison for the Dutchman?
Having completed his sensational return to the Blues, 13 years after leaving for Manchester United, Wayne Rooney stated that the pinnacle of his career would be winning silverware with his boyhood club.
With such a strong squad at his disposal, Koeman would do well to target one or both of the domestic cups, as it would not only end the Toffees’ current 22-year wait for silverware, but it would also indicate that the club is heading in the right direction.
The former Feyenoord boss is a man of ambition, having openly stated his desire to one day manage Catalan giants Barcelona and the Netherlands national team, so a top-four finish is possibly the target that he has set out for himself to achieve – although the Blues would start the season as dark-horses.
Despite making a number of impressive signings, reinforcing both attacking and defensive areas, namely through Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez, in addition to Rooney, the rest of the league’s elite sides are all intent on strengthening their squads, as Manchester United have shown by paying Everton £75 million for their top scorer last season, Romelu Lukaku.
Koeman must now ensure that his new signings gel together as quickly as possible and can hit the ground running ahead of a testing campaign that could fully vindicate the faith that Moshiri has placed in him, and that could go a long way towards determining whether the Dutchman has what it takes to one day land his dream job at the Nou Camp.