A club built around a manager who is no longer the manager. In short, that is the situation facing Everton, following their sacking of Rafa Benitez. It was never a match made in heaven to begin with, and the mess he leaves behind is staggering.
From day one of his reign to the last, he was unable to gain the support of the fanbase, sparking one particularly infuriated supporter to race from the stand at Norwich in a desperate attempt to confront him.
With tensions sky-high, the trigger was pulled – bringing an end to a project which was ill-fated from the start. Now, the process has begun to find a replacement, with Roberto Martinez – a former manager at Goodison Park – one of the favourites.
It is said that Martinez, who is currently in charge of Belgium, would be keen on sealing a return, insisting privately that he has unfinished business. But as it stands, the reasons for him taking the job are few and far between.
Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the dilemma facing him during his decision-making.
Roberto Martinez is among the favourites to take the Everton job after Rafa Benitez’s sacking
The defeat at Norwich was the final nail in the coffin for Benitez, who was sacked on Sunday
LACK OF INVESTMENT
During Benitez’s first window, Everton took a dip into the bargain bin in a bid to strengthen their squad on the cheap. Their need to ensure they don’t break Financial Fair Play meant that the resources from the hierarchy was sparing.
As a result, Demarai Gray, Andros Townsend and Salomon Rondon were recruited, with £1.7million spent on the former and the other two players arriving on free transfers. Goalkeepers Asmir Begovic and Andy Lonergan also joined, again for no fees.
It is the sight of Rondon leading the line at Goodison Park which has perfectly encapsulated the club’s season so far. He is lacking in fitness and quality, and supporters have rightly been angered by his series of below-par performances.
To make matters worse, there is not much prospect of Everton splashing the cash in an attempt to correct their mistakes. Martinez, if he does indeed put pen to paper, will be forced to work with a ragtag squad desperately low on quality.
Salomon Rondon was brought in on a free transfer, with Everton dipping into the bargain bin
SQUAD LACKING IN QUALITY
A quick look down Everton’s first-team squad raises eyebrows. Aside from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure, there is a real lack of players who can earn the tag of being ‘world-class’. That is not a quick fix, either.
As a result, there is plenty of room for improvement. This season, Everton have been shaky in defence, blunt in midfield and disjointed in attack. There is a feeling, then, that this ramshackle group have been pieced together in a rush of confusion.
Years of poor recruitment and a lack of a long-term project has damaged the club, to the extent that their first-team has been accused by many of being painfully average. This year, they are doing nothing to fight back against these claims.
Six managers have been axed in the last six years, culminating in a hostile atmosphere, which in turn has given way to a squad dangerously low on morale and confidence. Martinez would have to be quite the motivator to steer this shop around.
Recently, Lucas Digne was allowed to join Aston Villa after falling out with Benitez – another example of the club attempting to make life easier for their manager before choosing to sack him just weeks on.
Richarlison is one of few players in the Everton squad who has consistently proven his quality
Lucas Digne (left) was allowed to join Aston Villa after enduring a bust-up with boss Benitez
The league table, unfortunately for Everton, does not lie. They are languishing down in 16th spot, closer to the relegation dogfight than the push for Europe. In fact, there is just six points separating them from the dreaded dotted line.
Extraordinarily, they have just one win in their last 13 games, which came against Arsenal in early December. Before that, their last victory was over Norwich in September. The run from that date to now has been nothing short of dire.
At the weekend, they were underwhelming yet again against Norwich. Dean Smith’s side now have real hope of staying in the Premier League after picking up three points, a result which moved them within touching distance of Everton.
Richarlison was brought off the bench and scored a stunning goal, but aside from that, the visitors displayed all the hallmarks of a team splintered into a million pieces and lacking in cohesion, not to mention any clear tactical ideas.
You would not have known which of the two teams were in the bottom three judging of the performance alone. Norwich ran rings around their opponents and lifted the crowd into euphoria after scoring two quickfire goals in the first half.
The anger reached fever pitch then one supporter looked to confront Benitez in person, a foolish act which rightly saw him ejected from Carrow Road.
Everton delivered yet another woeful performance at Norwich, dragging them down the table
Michael Keane (centre) scored an own goal at Carrow Road, with their dismal form continuing
CLUB SHAPED IN BENITEZ’S IMAGE
The choices made at Everton throughout Benitez’s tenure were bemusing. But perhaps the strangest of them all was an overhaul of several areas at the club, to make them more in line with the manager’s image and desires.
Danny Donachie, the popular head of medical services, was axed. Manager of scouting and operations Dan Purdy and head of recruitment and development Gretar Steinsson also found themselves departing the Merseyside outfit.
Benitez is widely understood to have pushed for greater control over the recruitment process, forcing several figures integral to that area out. To top it all off, Marcel Brands, their old director of football, also quit, having butted heads with the boss.
This has left a gaping void at the top of the club that will need to be filled. Martinez, should he take the job, will likely be reluctant to handle all of these matters himself, meaning that new faces will have to be found, kickstarting the process again.
Of course, this presents the risk of these new members of staff looking to take the club in yet another direction, which could result in another shake-up. All that is clear is that this overhaul is a long process, with patience from the fanbase wearing thin.
Director of football Marcel Brands left the club as part of a recruitment shake-up this season
Farhad Moshiri allowed Benitez to shape the team in his own image before later sacking him
WORLD CUP YEAR FOR BELGIUM
As well as the multitude of issues stacking up in the in-tray at Everton, Martinez is also in the thick of a World Cup year in charge of Belgium, the top-ranked team in the world. Quite rightly, the question has been posed over whether he’d want to quit.
The tournament may well be the final chance for this golden generation to finally lift a trophy, having caught the eye at the World Cup in 2018 and Euro 2020. They have fallen short on both occasions, though, piling the pressure on their manager.
Despite what is at stake, this is the opportunity of a lifetime for Martinez. Would he really be willing to sacrifice that to take the reins at Everton, a role seemingly resembling a poisoned chalice? Only he will know the answer to that one.
It is believed that Everton have officially approached the Belgium FA over their vacancy, and a compromise will have to be reached between both parties for Martinez to replace Benitez. He may well end up balancing both jobs.
They may also run the risk of shelling out for compensation, however, a fee which will stretch the club’s battered coffers even further in a disappointing campaign.
Martinez will lead Belgium to the World Cup this year, with a compromise needed for Everton