Commentary

Koeman's past inhibited Everton's future

Everton players did not have to search hard for video or still images of Ronald Koeman in his playing pomp. They needed only to glance at Koeman's social media feed with its regular "throwbacks" to him scoring goals and winning trophies for Barcelona and Holland.

Koeman enjoyed a magical career with the ball at his feet, conquering Europe with his country in 1988 and with his club in 1992, but the frequent references on Twitter to such feats hinted at an ego to rival the size of his footballing talent.

It is hard to recall Zinedine Zidane, Pep Guardiola or Carlo Ancelotti eulogising their own glittering playing days. They focus on the present, on nurturing players, not feeling a desire to take a self-admiring stroll down a memory lane of mirrors.

Koeman did much that was good at Everton. Any successor must continue his commitment to youngsters such as Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tom Davies, but a touch of humility, an aptitude for man-management, and a hunger to devote more time to working on shape in training are vital.

The new man must also be utterly dedicated to Everton, not allowing such a distinguished club, with such passionate supporters, some decent players and an ambitious owner, to be seen as a stepping stone.

During his 17 months in charge of Everton, Koeman kept referring on Twitter to what appears to be his greatest love, Barcelona, with photographs of Lionel Messi and wishing his old side "good luck" in El Clasico matches.

Last May, Koeman hailed the 25th anniversary of the 1992 European Cup final by posting a snap of him settling down to watch a "documentary about my goal". His car carries the letters BAR. It's not a number plate, it's a gilded resume.

Arsenal's Granit Xhaka outsmarting Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson during their Premier League encounter last Sunday. The Iceland midfielder, recruited from Swansea City in August, received praise from Ronald Koeman despite below-par performances.
Arsenal's Granit Xhaka outsmarting Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson during their Premier League encounter last Sunday. The Iceland midfielder, recruited from Swansea City in August, received praise from Ronald Koeman despite below-par performances. PHOTO: REUTERS

Maybe Koeman wants to return to Barcelona as coach one day. But to depict him as some serial narcissist simply on the basis of his social media output would be slightly misleading.

Koeman enjoyed a magical career... conquering Europe with his country in 1988 and with his club in 1992, but the frequent references on Twitter to such feats hinted at an ego to rival the size of his footballing talent.

Using social media as a window into somebody's soul is dangerous, but it is symptomatic of Koeman's failure to inspire players this season if he truly is almost detached from them.

Players will accept criticism if it is dispensed fairly. It was noted at Everton that Koeman was inconsistent. Davy Klaassen has been dreadful and Gylfi Sigurdsson disappointing, yet Koeman praised the two individuals signed during his tenure.

Koeman never became as heavily engaged in coaching as other managers, leaving much of the work to his brother Erwin.

Did he build strong enough relationships with players? Or the club's powerbrokers? Maybe it was not in Koeman's nature. Maybe one of the game's great passers was simply passing through.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2017, with the headline 'Koeman's past inhibited Everton's future'. Print Edition | Subscribe