If Sunday is any indication, Everton is showing the world how to manage talent.
It’s been years in the making, but it looks like the Merseysiders have gotten their selection right, and they’ve done it with discarded talent from the biggest clubs in the world.
It starts with Carlo Ancelotti. Everton has followed in the footsteps of Liverpool and Manchester City in determining that building a quality team starts with signing a quality coach. Barcelona, on the hand, learned the hard way this year that a big club without a big-time coach is destined for failure.
Real Madrid made this mistake in the past as well but learned from it quickly. Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho both, relatively speaking, had successful tenures at the club, and then Zinedine Zidane came in and followed successfully in their footsteps. Julen Lopetegui, a solid coach in his own right who is doing well with Sevilla, showed that a specific pedigree is needed in order to succeed on the global stage. He didn’t have the stuff, but the return of Zidane righted the ship quickly.
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With Ancelotti, Everton has the added bonus that he is the ultimate players’ coach. That means they can rest assured that every dollar they spend on new players will be rewarded by a coach who knows how to get the best out of them.
But the coaching situation isn’t the only thing that Everton got right. The players all looked fantastic against Tottenham. A true unit where everyone knew their role and executed on a high level.
Let’s for a moment focus on the three castaways from Barcelona.
Lucas Digne barely played at the Camp Nou, but in Everton, he has transformed himself into one of the best left fullbacks in the world. His service on the set-piece goal was impeccable. World-class. The kind of service that Barcelona has never, and will never get from Jordi Alba, who has been regressing the past few years and never had this skillset to begin with. Wouldn’t the Catalans love to still have this guy as the successor in that position as was originally planned?
Yerry Mina also looks really solid in a position that Barcelona is desperate to shore up. Center defenders are hard to come by and Barcelona discarded Mina within six months of signing him. One thing that Mina is great at, that Barca could have been benefiting from all this time, is his ability to score goals with his head on set pieces. But like so many decisions made with the club lately, this was another short-sided one.
Even Andre Gomes is looking like a big-time contributor. Against Tottenham, he played in the defensive midfield, and he looked confident and capable. In contrast, he looked demoralized in Barcelona and incapable of contributing in even the smallest way.
Last by not least, the crown jewel of the Everton experiment that could push them over the top is James Rodriguez. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich both found him to be surplus to requirements. If he turns his career around under Ancelotti’s leadership, Everton will have gotten a steal. He looked as dynamic as ever against Tottenham, and that should put his former teams on notice.
Going forward soccer fans around the world should be excited about the way Everton has shown a new way forward. The combination of homegrown talent, under the radar signings from abroad, and the undeniable x-factor of signing a world-class coach, is a model that others may soon copy.