Everton are battling to persuade Marcelo Bielsa to replace Frank Lampard after the former Leeds United manager expressed reservations about a move to Goodison Park.
Majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri’s succession plan immediately hit a snag as Bielsa is unsure if it’s the right move for his career.
Moshiri has made Bielsa his number one target and wants to convince the 67-year-old he can save Everton from relegation. Should the South American remain unfazed, alternative targets such as former Southampton coach Ralph Hasenhüttl will be seriously considered. West Bromwich Albion manager Carlos Corberán also has his admirers in Goodison’s hierarchy, although it would be more complicated to lure the manager in place.
Hasenhüttl – who left St Mary’s in November – was one of the first contenders to replace Rafa Benitez a year ago, but interest did not increase as he was still under contract and Everton were unwilling to complete a compensation package when free agents became available.
They would have no problem now, although Hasenhüttl’s shares have fallen after overseeing the Saints’ decline in form at the start of this campaign.
Moshiri must act quickly to ensure Lampard’s successor is in place ahead of the next Premier League home match against Premier League leaders Arsenal on February 4. The Merseyside derby is a week later and Everton are in serious danger of being cut off from the world if the new manager doesn’t hit the ground running.
Bielsa’s initial reticence does not bode well. There was never any guarantee he would be lured to Merseyside, especially after looking at the quality of Everton’s squad. The Argentine must make sure he has players who will impose his unique style on him, or the resources to recruit those who will be able to play his energetic football.
Everton’s financial woes are such that no such promises can be made to any candidates.
Bielsa is known for being meticulous in researching clubs that approach him. He will watch Everton’s recent games and make an initial assessment of the players he has. While he was immediately successful in changing Leeds’ style, this was after taking charge in pre-season.
If he rejects Everton, it will mean he believes the team can meet his requirements in such a short time to ensure their survival in the Premier League. It will also reflect Everton being handcuffed in the transfer market, given that every deal must be ratified by Financial Fair Play regulators.
History seems to be repeating itself at Goodison Park, given that Moshiri oversaw many chaotic changes during his tenure, different coaches with very different philosophies of play were considered or appointed.
Following the sacking of Ronald Koeman, Everton’s first move on Marco Silva – then at Watford – led to a rebuttal and a complaint of illegal approach. Moshiri was forced to appoint Sam Allardyce instead, finally appointing Silva six months later after compensation was paid to Watford and Allardyce.
Moshiri came close to appointing Vitor Pereira last year but was forced to change his mind after Everton fans expressed their dissatisfaction and preferred Frank Lampard.
Moshiri was previously due to shake hands over a deal for Nuno Espirito Santo but was persuaded to appoint Rafa Benitez after speaking with the former Liverpool manager.
And 18 months earlier, David Moyes was in advanced talks only to be passed over by Carlo Ancelotti. If Bielsa refuses, there will be fear that the pursuit of Everton managers will again become a circus.
After another 48 hours of confusion with Everton supporters eager for answers about the pursuit of the next manager, why prospective buyers are turning at the last minute and whether Anthony Gordon will be sold, the club released a video message from Moshiri late on Tuesday night in which he promised to bolster the team.
“We need a striker. We’ll get one,” he said.
“I have no doubt that the second half of the season will be stronger. We have a recruitment and performance plan. We have a window to deal with it.”
In a video before Lampard’s dismissal, Moshiri also admitted that he had fired some coaches too early.
“I was impatient. I was touched and reacting to the feelings of the fans and perhaps I removed the managers too soon,” he said.
“This is criticism [of me] not fans. What I say to the fans is that we all need to be a little more patient and balanced. We should implement changes on a more informed basis.”
Moshiri also claimed he was not looking for a buyer for the club.
“The club is not for sale but I have spoken with top investors to fill the gap in the stadium. I can do it myself, but I want to bring the best sports investors to Everton. We are close to a deal.”