Roberto Martinez has been named as the new head man of the Belgium national team, according to the team’s Twitter account. Martinez had formerly been in charge at Everton from May 23, 2013 until May 18, 2016.
Martinez joins the Red Devils after nearly three months out of work. In that time, he covered the Euros for ESPN and was linked with a return to the Premier League as the manager at Hull City. Instead, it appears he has decided to move onto the international stage.
Following a playing career as a defensive midfielder that saw him spend time with eight teams in 16 years, Martinez began his coaching career as the manager of Swansea City as a 34-year-old.
From there, he brought the Swans up from League One to the Championship before heading to Wigan Athletic for a few years. During his time there, he guided Wigan to an improbable FA Cup win over Manchester City, but also suffered relegation from the Premier League. Following that relegation season, he made the move to Everton.
With the Toffees, Martinez experienced great early success. On the backs of big loan moves for Romelu Lukaku, Gerard Deulofeu and Gareth Barry, Everton reached fifth place in England’s top flight in 2013/14 and a spot in the next season’s Europa League. That would prove to be the pinnacle of his time on Merseyside.
Despite some admirable Cup runs over the next two seasons, Martinez ultimately failed to bring Everton the trophies and type of success that seemed possible during his opening campaign. Both the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons ended with 11th-place finishes by teams that seemed unable to defend a lead and unwilling to make adjustments.
What resulted was a disgruntled fan base that demanded Martinez’s exit for half a season and a locker room full of players that seemed uninterested in playing for the Spanish coach any longer. His employment was terminated prior to Everton’s final home game of last season.
Martinez now takes over a Belgian team that has been somewhat of a disappointment in recent years. They are in the midst of what may be the most talented pool of players in their history, including the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois and others.
They are so good, in fact, that FIFA currently rates them as the second-best national team in the world behind only Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Despite this, they have reached only the quarterfinals of the most recent Euros and World Cup. The new manager will be expected to do better than that with the type of talent available to him.
Among that talented crop of players are current Everton men Lukaku and winger Kevin Mirallas as well as Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who Martinez sold to David Moyes in his first summer with the Blues.
Lukaku and Martinez owe much of one another’s success so far in their careers to each other. It was Martinez who originally brought the striker to Everton on loan and later made the move a permanent one. And it was Lukaku who scored a boatload of goals for his side in the three years Bobby was in control and it would be a good bet to say he is a big reason why Martinez has been given this job.
Mirallas, on the other hand, seemed to have a strained relationship with the coach. At times, Martinez preferred to go with more central players, such as Tom Cleverley or Arouna Kone, on the wing instead of the Belgian. This loss of playing time likely lead to Mirallas being left off the Belgian team for Euro 2016. It may be tough for him to make it back now.
It is a surprising move, to say the least. Martinez, at 43 years old, is still relatively young for a manager. His specialty seems to be offense, which Belgium don’t have a problem with, but their defense has struggled against what many would consider inferior competition.
However, few could argue that Belgium has a much more talented squad of players than any other team he has ever taken control of. Perhaps that will make a world of difference.