Carlo Ancelotti’s last experience of Goodison Park and the Premier League was being sacked by Chelsea in a side room on the final day of the season in May 2011 – now he is back at Everton as the biggest managerial appointment in the club’s history.
Ancelotti was greeted after a 1-0 loss by then Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay to hear the news that his two-year reign was over after failing to follow up a Premier League and FA Cup Double in 2010 with a trophy the following season.
Since then, the 60-year-old Italian’s travels have taken him to Paris St-Germain, Real Madrid – where he won the Champions League for the third time in 2014 – and Napoli, who sacked him last week.
This has been the burning question since Ancelotti’s arrival at Everton was first suggested, and has led to an outbreak of genuine anger among many fans who feel those questioning the appointment were telling the club to know their place.
Quite simply, Everton have appointed the best, most successful man available for the job. How can they be criticised for that?
It carries risks, but so would the retrograde step of reappointing David Moyes, favoured for a time by some in the Goodison Park boardroom, or even Mikel Arteta, appointed by Arsenal on Friday but who also had admirers at Everton.
Few managers come with a guarantee these days.
Ancelotti is football royalty, one of only three men to lift Europe’s elite trophy three times, alongside Liverpool’s Bob Paisley and Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane.
His appointment instantly gives Everton global relevance.
He may be understated but Ancelotti’s achievements at AC Milan – where he won the Champions League in 2003 and 2007, although he was also in charge for Liverpool’s famous comeback in Istanbul in 2005 – make him box office.
The debate around his suitability for Everton is a valid one, but it is hard to question or criticise owner Farhad Moshiri for pulling off this undoubted coup.
It is a show of ambition by Moshiri. He has handed Ancelotti a lucrative long-term contract and will also back him heavily in the transfer market. It could light up Goodison Park.
Moshiri’s reign has been disappointing so far, but he deserves huge credit for refusing to accept second best when such an outstanding candidate suddenly appeared on the market at the same time he was seeking a new manager.
Moshiri has always wanted a ‘Hollywood’ manager with the reputation and successes of Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.
Now Everton have one. And it can only be cause for optimism.
The key question mark – and there is one – is that Ancelotti’s successes have been built on brilliantly calm man-management and tactical wisdom, which have made him the ideal facilitator of great players such as Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.
Everton is a completely different task: rebuilding a team assembled on largely unwise spending that needs work from the ground up.
It is different from what Ancelotti is used to. However, it is disrespectful to suggest a man of such calibre and experience would find such a task beyond him.
And perhaps talk of a “fit” should be the other way around. Maybe it is down to Everton – who have been struggling before hiring Ancelotti – to mould themselves to fit him.
And this is where Ancelotti’s reputation will come in, where his name alone and the opportunity to play under him will attract players who would not have previously considered Everton.
Would this be the case with Moyes, whose name was greeted with such negativity by Toffees supporters when raised? Would this be the case with Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe or the Portuguese coach Vitor Pereira, who were also mentioned?
It would not. So while there is a debate to be had, it is hard to see the bad news for Everton in Ancelotti’s appointment.
Ancelotti is fortunate that he arrives at Everton with the club, team and fans reignited by Duncan Ferguson’s spell in caretaker charge.
The pure theatre of Ferguson’s presence in the technical area lifted the gloom of Silva’s final days and allowed Ancelotti to benefit from optimism after potential tough run of fixtures yielded a win against Chelsea and a draw at Manchester United, before the Carabao Cup quarter-final loss to Leicester City on penalties after a stirring fightback from two goals down.
Ancelotti is sure to make it his business to find out why 19-year-old compatriot Moise Kean has not made an impact, even being substituted as a substitute by Ferguson at Old Trafford.
Kean will surely welcome Ancelotti’s cool, analytical, arm-around-the-shoulder style, not to mention another Italian voice, and the forward might see his arrival as the chance to get his Everton career going.
The youngster has created some of his own problems – he was excluded from the matchday squad at Southampton in November for being late for a team meeting for the second time – but there is no doubt this is an untapped talent Ancelotti will hope to release.
Ancelotti has quality to work with in Brazil striker Richarlison, who has just signed a new five-year contract, France left-back Lucas Digne and England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Iceland midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson is enigmatic but gifted.
Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 22, has looked transformed under Ferguson, while another young Englishman, 21-year-old midfielder Tom Davies, can only develop via Ancelotti’s wisdom.
The new manager needs to make Everton tougher to beat and more steely in the face of adversity. They never came from behind to win a league game during Marco Silva’s 18 months in charge.
Ancelotti is certain to be in the transfer market in January and beyond.
Everton’s summer trading under director of football Marcel Brands was flawed, leaving the squad light in central defence after on-loan Kurt Zouma returned to Chelsea. The need for a recognised goalscorer has never been adequately addressed since Romelu Lukaku left for Manchester United in summer 2017.
This will be one of the most intriguing aspects of Everton’s marquee appointment.
Everton brought in Brands in May 2018, shortly before Silva’s arrival as manager, after huge success at PSV Eindhoven. Such was his early impact that he was appointed to the board in January 2019 and, according to chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale, was responsible for the “whole football strategy”.
This dynamic surely shifts, even with subtlety, with Ancelotti coming in.
It is clear this move is driven by the ambition of Moshiri and it is likely such a significant and influential figure as Ancelotti will want to exert more power, understandably, than the understated Silva.
Brands has also been responsible for transfer work at Everton – he was the man behind the Kean purchase from Juventus.
Everton had operated a model of buying younger players with potential sell-on value, such as Kean.
Will that change now?
Ancelotti’s pull means more established players could be lured to Everton, who will clearly back him with high finance.
The Italian’s relaxed, cool personality means there is every chance the changes will develop without friction, but the strong-minded and powerful Brands will surely also want his say.
If Everton pull it off it will be a powerful partnership – but it will need to bed in.
For now, however, Everton have every right to celebrate a massive coup and Moshiri’s boldest statement of ambition and intent.