Everton could finally be ready to ramp up their search for a new manager now number one target Ronald Koeman has returned from holiday.
The Toffees have understandably said nothing regarding their hunt for a new boss so we have been left to rely on scraps of gossip from the media.
It does seem though that Southampton manager Koeman is the club’s prime target.
When asked about the rumours last month Dutchman insisted he was happy at Southampton and would commit his future to the club if they could match his ambitions.
Those ambitions appear to centre on keeping the club’s star players, something the Saints have struggled to do in recent seasons.
Koeman’s representatives have been in talks with Southampton for several weeks but with the former Ajax boss on holiday, nothing could be signed.
Manuel Pellegrini and David Moyes have both been interviewed in that time, while Frank de Boer has publicly declared his interest on more than one occasion.
The fact none of that trio have been appointed suggests they are further down Everton’s wanted list, though it is at least encouraging to see the club being thorough and covering all eventualities.
Koeman seems to be the focus, though, with majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri reportedly ready to double the 53-year-old’s money and give him substantial transfer funds to play with.
Koeman may well be using Everton’s interest to force a better deal from Southampton, as anyone would in that situation. But either way we hopefully should hear a definite answer in the coming days.
The alternative appears to be Unai Emery, who led Sevilla to a third successive Europa League title against Liverpool last month.
Emery is ready to leave Sevilla for a new challenge and Everton have already held talks with his representatives.
Spanish media are also reporting that a release clause in Emery’s contract reduced from around £6million to £1.5million on June 1.
The added twist in the hunt for Emery is Everton’s desire to also lure Sevilla’s sporting director Monchi to Goodison Park.
Monchi is widely regarded as the man responsible for Sevilla’s success over the past decade, which has seen them win nine major trophies yet still make a hefty profit in the transfer market.
Moshiri is keen to implement a new coaching structure at Goodison Park with a director of football in charge of scouting, contract negotiations and transfers.
Monchi is ready to leave Sevilla this summer, though the Spanish side have refused to release him from his contract meaning a release clause in the region of £3million will need to be paid.
Having a director of football in place can help protect Everton from the disruption caused by changing managers.
Everton, like many English clubs, have always favoured the traditional model of a manager having full control of all footballing matters.
The most successful example of this was Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. However, the upheaval and dip in results we have seen at Old Trafford since Fergie’s retirement three years ago may prompt a sea change in the English game.
Having a director of football in place means the manager is replaced by a head coach, with their focus purely on training and tactics.
It also makes head coaches more dispensable, as the over-arching structure remains in place even if they leave.
Moshiri’s desire to implement such a model may explain his determination to land Koeman, who works under a similar structure at Southampton.
Les Reed is head of football development at St Mary’s, overseeing youth academy, scouting and recruitment.
Reed’s presence meant Southampton could survive the departure of Mauricio Pochettino to Spurs two seasons ago with minimal disruption.
Indeed since Reed’s appointment in April 2010 Southampton have been through four permanent managers yet still earned two promotions and four consecutive seasons in the Premier League – with a higher finishing position each year.
One of the reasons given for Koeman’s reluctance to leave Southampton is his reported desire to join Arsenal or Barcelona in the near future, meaning a move to Everton would be an unnecessary sideward step.
But what if Moshiri is already planning for such an eventuality? Promising Koeman funds to build a successful team but knowing the club will not suffer if he abandons the project early?
That would make Monchi the key appointment in Moshiri’s masterplan, with the head coach merely a cog in the machine.
That’s only wild speculation of course, solid information is thin on the ground. But it is a logical jump given the reports we have available.
We will all know the answers in the coming days so a little patience is required. But given just three years ago Neil Lennon and Phil Neville were genuine contenders for the Everton job it’s nice to see some tangible progress.