Everton have confirmed what was becoming increasingly inevitable, with manager Roberto Martinez sacked after three years in charge of the club.
The initial signs were positive under Martinez as Everton finished fifth in his first season at the helm, but the Toffees have rapidly regressed in the last two campaigns, with a midweek hammering at the hands of Sunderland the final straw.
With a new owner and a talented squad, Everton have the potential to challenge for the European places once more next season – if they have the right manager at the helm. Here are six men who could replace Martinez…
Frank de Boer
The favourite to replace Martinez after leaving his post at Ajax this week after the Amsterdam outfit failed to win the Eredivisie title. The Dutchman is rated as one of the top young managers in Europe, and while his style of play is not always entertaining, Everton (who have the worst defensive record in the Premier League) may trade excitement for some much-needed stability at the back.
As a player, De Boer learned his traded at Ajax and Barcelona and he is renowned as being an excellent tactician. While he may not have managed outside of the Netherlands – where he won the title with Ajax four times in six seasons – he was assistant coach when the Dutch national team reached the World Cup final in 2010.
The Welshman briefly turned out for the Toffees as a player, and after a somewhat rocky start to life in the managerial fast lane which saw him drop from Man City to QPR, he has been lauded for transforming Stoke into an attacking force to be reckoned with – albeit an inconsistent one.
It wouldn’t be a signing that screams ambition, but Hughes certainly has the skills to get more out of Everton than Martinez has this season, and he is not a man short of ambition.
Under appreciated by those at the Etihad, the outgoing Manchester City boss would bring a pedigree of some standing to Goodison. The Chilean was criticised for a lack of charisma, an accusation that certainly wouldn’t be levelled at Martinez, but having brought three trophies to Eastlands in three season his record is not as bad as some City fans would have you believe.
The former Real Madrid boss has spoken of his desire to stay in England, and his experience at the highest level may make him an appealing choice for Everton’s new owners. The 62-year-old’s time with Malaga also showed he’s more than capable of achieving success at clubs who do not have the buying power of Real and City.
The Dutchman has showed he has what it takes to perform in the Premier League, overseeing the progression of an entertaining Southampton side at a time in which the South Coast outfit were expected to struggle following a raft of exits.
However, even the promise of a sizeable transfer kitty (which certainly isn’t guaranteed) may not be enough to convince Koeman that a switch to Merseyside is anything more than a sideways move.
When Moyes left Everton for Manchester United after the 2012/13 season, there was an element of relief among Everton fans. The Scot had overseen a period of sustained growth at the club, but there was a feeling that he had run his course and that the Toffees had begun to stagnate. Suddenly the top-half-of-the-table stability that Moyes seems very much desirable.
Moyes has bide his time since leaving Real Sociedad earlier this season, reportedly turning down the chance to join Aston Villa. It’s believed the former United boss would jump at a return to Goodison, but it’s remains to be seen if this would be viewed as a step forward for the club.
A former Liverpool manager taking over at Everton- madness, surely?! Perhaps not. With Newcastle relegated and Benitez believed to have included a relegation escape clause in his contract, the Spaniard will be back on the market and with a fondness for Merseyside he may just skip over to the blue side of Liverpool.
There may be some rumbles of discontent about a man who oversaw so much success at Anfield making the switch, but this track record – both domestically and in Europe – should make Benitez more appealing, not less. While a controversial choice, Benitez would be able to do well with the squad already assembled at Goodison.