March the 12th 2016 should have been the best day in Everton’s modern history. The Toffees defeated Chelsea by two goals to nil, as a Romelu Lukaku brace steamrolled the Blues into the FA Cup semi-finals – all under the watchful eye of Everton’s newest and richest fan.
Farhad Moshiri was attending his first game after effectively taking control of the Merseysiders, pitching up to Goodison Park that evening as the proud owner of a 49.9% share of the club. But, what should have been a dream for the ever-loyal Everton faithful, has turned into a nightmare.
It all began a couple of months later, as Moshiri made his first real impact in charge by sacking Roberto Martínez. Not an unpopular decision by any means – the Spaniard had failed to correct many of his own failings and by the end, it was embarrassing.
A 4-0 drumming in the Merseyside derby was followed by an FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester United, with 3-1 and 3-0 humblings at the hands of Leicester and Sunderland proving fatal for the former Wigan man.
Martinez was generally popular with the fans – earning kudos for a terrific debut campaign and plenty of leeway following a less productive second season and 11th place finish amid European participation.
The third season showed promise originally, but by the end, he was talking in riddles and his hairline had receded that far back it was sat in the Upper Gwladys watching Lukaku slot the second against Chelsea. It cost him £10m in compensation, but Moshiri had to end a once beautiful marriage.
Ronald Koeman was the man chosen to replace him, as the Dutchman wowed the Everton hierarchy with 7th and 6th place finishes in his two seasons with Southampton, in a move which sparked optimism up in L4.
Just over a month later, Koeman was joined by Steve Walsh – the Chief Scout behind Leicester’s miraculous 2015/16 Premier League title win – who would operate as the club’s new Director of Football. The pair, to many, seemed like a match made in heaven, but the partnership they sprung up was certainly created in the depths of footballing Hell.
Walsh got to work immediately, facilitating the signing of Idrissa Gana Gueye from Aston Villa – a terrific buy for the Toffees who they flipped a £22m profit on two years later. Unfortunately, however, the likes of Gueye were few and far between.
Ashley Williams and Yannick Bolasie were the big buys of Everton’s first summer under Moshiri – the pair arriving for 12 and 26 million pounds respectively, but both failed to live up to either fee.
Williams turned 32 a matter of days after signing and was already starting to slow down – playing just over 70 games for Everton with plenty coming in a disastrous 17/18 season where the Welshman appeared to lose his footballing ability altogether.
Bolasie’s time at Everton can be caveated by an ACL injury he suffered just four months into his Toffees career – but the DR Congo international should never have arrived in the first place for such a fee. He had managed just nine goals in 90 Premier League appearances with Crystal Palace (with a third of those coming in one game against Sunderland), and was already 27 years old.
He managed just 33 games for Everton, scoring two goals in the process – a number dwarfed by the four loan spells he spent away from Goodison – before leaving for nothing, along with Williams.
With Everton desperate to sign a backup striker, Walsh landed Enner Valencia on loan – an Ecuadorian forward no longer good enough to play for West Ham, which supposedly made him perfect for Everton.
Valencia perhaps looked most at home when he was comically chased from the pitch by police when on international duty – as for the most part he looked like he was stealing a living.
Underneath the rubble was the shrewd business of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, a little-known forward scouted by under-23 boss David Unsworth and signed for under £2m, easily Walsh’s finest moment at Everton (even if it took a couple of years to come to fruition).
It was to be transfer deadline day where Moshiri, an elegant-sounding businessman with a net worth exceeding over £2bn, showed the first cracks in his Everton regime and ones which still stand today.
With Everton tracking Newcastle midfielder Moussa Sissoko (who subsequently turned off his phone to avoid Everton’s calls in a bid to sign for Tottenham), Moshiri appeared from the shadows on a mobile phone-in on Sky Sports.
Sounding like Bane from Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, Moshiri suggested to Jim White that he pulled out of a deal to sign Sissoko due to the club’s family values, as he didn’t want to jeopardise James McCarthy’s Everton career. A firmly bizarre statement, and one which set in motion an endless loop of Entry of the Gladiators down at Goodison Park.
That season yo-yoed until Christmas. Koeman started brightly but a lack of support for Romelu Lukaku, reliance on late goals and a tendency to concede them meant Everton failed to push on as they entered 2017.
The £24m signing of Morgan Schneiderlin and the emergence of Tom Davies strengthened the Toffees’ engine room and results began to turn. They lost just two from the next 17 after Christmas to secure 7th and a return to European football, but it wasn’t enough to keep ahold of star man Lukaku.
After netting 25 Premier League goals, the Belgian sought pastures new and would eventually move to Manchester United in a deal worth £90m. Or, so it should have been, but Bill Kenwright stuck his oar in and wanted to bring Wayne Rooney back to Goodison.
A move for the former Toffee had been mooted for a couple of years and as England’s record goalscorer declined, it became more attainable. They struck a deal that saw the pair swapped, with £75m coming in Everton’s direction.
While Rooney’s impact was mixed and short-lived, it was far from the worst business Everton did that window. Sandro Ramírez joined from Malaga for just £5.25m, but on over £120,000-a-week. Michael Keane was signed for £25m, Davy Klaassen for £24m and Cuco Martina arrived on a free – a deal which still saw Everton ripped off.
Gylfi Sigurðsson became the club’s record arrival for £45m just one month before his 28th birthday – an absolutely barbaric fee for a player who played in the same position as two other expensive summer arrivals.
The squad building absolutely stunk, and showed a great lack of cohesion from top to bottom. Three attacking midfielders arrived, despite Koeman ending 16/17 in a 5-2-3 shape which didn’t deploy one at all.
They went without a new left-back, even with Leighton Baines turning 33 and the aforementioned Martina proved far out of his depth when deputising for an injured Seamus Coleman on the right.
This culminated in Everton’s go-to back four for a period of the campaign reading as Martina at left-back, a 34-year-old Ashley Williams skippering the side next to an inexperienced Mason Holgate, with Jonjoe Kenny on the right.
When you spend over £150m in a summer, your defence has to be better than that, and most of Everton’s signings harboured little to no resale value.
To no surprise, the season started poorly and by October, Koeman was gone – a 5-2 defeat to Arsenal proving to be the final nail in the coffin.
While his dismissal was a shame based on what he had built in 16/17, the constant chat of wanting to eventually take over at the Netherlands or Barcelona (roles he has now ultimately failed at) left a sour taste, and a feeling that if he had been a success at Everton, he would’ve jumped ship at the earliest chance he got (like how he joined the Toffees in the first place).
Moshiri appointed David Unsworth as interim manager for the second time in just over a year, before beginning one of the longest, most-drawn out managerial searches the Premier League has ever seen.
Koeman was dismissed on October 23rd, with Moshiri first looking at Burnley boss Sean Dyche – a gaffer who gets a lot out of little, with his Clarets side proving hard to break down and would eventually make Europe come season’s end.
In the middle of the chaos, Moshiri was approached for comment by Panorama regarding leaked papers that suggested he had breached Premier League rules when acquiring the Toffees – it’s never dull, is it?
Once his Dyche dream had ended, he turned his attention to Marco Silva, quickly falling in love with the Portuguese manager’s Watford side who he had sat fifth after nine Premier League games.
But by the time the approach came on November 13th, the wheels had started to come off for Silva, with a 3-2 defeat to Unsworth’s Blues the ultimate red flag. Despite the Hornets rejecting Everton’s advances, Moshiri continued to push – to the direct detriment of his own club.
Unsworth wasn’t ready for the mammoth task of steering such an uncoordinated ship away from the bottom while fighting in two cup competitions, losing his first three and the two directly after the Silva approach – five and four one hammerings to Atalanta and Southampton.
The severity of the situation finally reached the top. Moshiri knew he had to be decisive and bring a manager in otherwise Everton were going to be in a pickle – but he panicked.
A full 38 days after sacking Koeman, more protracted discussions during what was supposed to be the start of a new Goodison golden era led them to Sam Allardyce – with Moshiri handing the former Bolton boss an 18-month contract, despite a desire to only keep him until the end of the campaign.
He brought with him Liverpool legend Sammy Lee as assistant manager, but little did Everton fans know, it was going to get far worse than that in due course.
The announcement was made the day after a 4-0 win over West Ham in Unsworth’s final game in charge, with the Blues hero getting the swansong his efforts deserved – until Allardyce intervened. Prior to the game, Everton were 17th, moving up to 13th by full-time and just three points off 9th place Leicester.
But Allardyce has since shamelessly claimed that victory as his own, stating the club were 17th at the time of his arrival as his erroneous boasts became the brunt of all Evertonian’s frustrations. He had the Blues clear of relegation fears within a month after negotiating the opening fixtures with relative ease, making the need for a firefighter all the more puzzling.
The next transfer window brought more chaos as Everton desperately needed to fine-tune their squad and try to move on some deadwood in the process – but once again Moshiri and Walsh failed to address the issues at hand.
Despite knowing that the chances of Allardyce staying beyond the season were slim, Moshiri inexplicably handed him a £50m war chest to revamp his squad – bringing in Theo Walcott from Arsenal for £20m, Beşiktaş striker Cenk Tosun for £27m and loaning in Eliaquim Mangala from Manchester City. All three, unsurprisingly, ended in disaster.
Walcott was signed at the turn of his 29th birthday, Tosun had arrived following eight goals in 16 Turkish Süper Lig games, but had no exceptional physical attributes needed to succeed in England and so it proved; he hit five goals before the end of the season, but has only scored four since.
Both Tosun and Walcott will/have left upon the expiry of their contracts, meaning the Toffees’ short-term £47m investment brought no money back into the club and provided just 19 league goals.
Mangala, for what it’s worth, lasted just one-and-a-half games only for a knee injury to end his fledgling Everton career before it really began – with the Blues shipping five goals during his 145-minutes.
And yet, remarkably, squandering near enough £50m on players with a combined age of 55 for a stop-gap manager wasn’t even the strangest thing he did that window.
He claimed that former striker Lukaku refused to sign a contract extension with Everton after a ‘voodoo message’ told him to join Chelsea – a full six months after he had joined Manchester United.
The Belgian sought legal advice for the comments the very next day, with Moshiri proving he had learned little from his previous PR disaster on transfer deadline day – with even worse round the corner.
The signing of Tosun prompted Everton’s deluded supremo to say that the Toffees now had their own ‘fab four’, following Philippe Coutinho’s Liverpool departure ending the Reds’ own deadly quartet.
But very little was ‘fab’ about Rooney, Tosun, Bolasie and Sigurðsson in the first place, and considering the foursome joined for over £100m and all left for nothing, one would suggest the ensuing four years have done little to change such an embarrassing statement.
Allardyce was inevitably dismissed at season’s end with Walsh following him out of the exit door. While the former had earned credit for steering the club away from danger, he was a total misfit for the full-time position.
Rightly or wrongly, Everton fans were never going to settle for his style of football and overall demeanour for any longer than they needed to. Walsh left with even less credit and Moshiri was tasked with rebuilding the football infrastructure.
To do that, he appointed highly regarded Dutchman Marcel Brands as the club’s new Director of Football, tasking him with cleaning up a £250m+ mess brought by his predecessor.
A little under two weeks later, Everton finally appointed Marco Silva as manager, but any excitement around his appointment had dissipated. Watford had sacked him in January following a run of one win from 11 games, citing Everton’s approach as a major reason for their downturn in form.
The claim led to Moshiri having to cough up £4m in compensation to Watford, meaning that between Martinez and Silva, Moshiri had spent over £24m simply on hiring, sacking and stalking managers.
Moshiri though, to his credit, backed the new man with an £80m transfer kitty to rebuild a mismanaged squad, while Brands worked hard to ship out big earners Bolasie, Sandro and Kevin Mirallas. Richarlison, Yerry Mina, Lucas Digne and Bernard all arrived with André Gomes and Kurt Zouma on loan.
This was better and showed a clear philosophy change; big money was still spent but on younger players, with none of the six above mentioned over the age of 25 – unlike each member of Allardyce’s ‘fab four’.
Silva showed glimpses of why Moshiri had tracked him so blindly during 17/18 and survived a rocky patch at the turn of the year to end the season with two losses from ten including an iconic 4-0 thumping of Manchester United.
Everton finished 8th for the second consecutive season and the feeling was that, so long as money was provided, then Brands and Silva could get to work – reducing the bloated wage bill and improving the playing squad all the while.
The former may have been true but the latter less so; Moise Kean arrived to much fanfare but provided little, André Gomes flattered to deceive for parts of 18/19 and his £22.5m fee always felt like an overspend.
Jean-Philippe Gbamin replaced the aforementioned Idrissa Gueye, but wretched injury luck means the Ivorian has worked with four Everton managers over the course of just two Premier League starts – but he is not the worst of a bad bunch.
Akin to his pursuit of Silva, Moshiri didn’t to give up on a prolonged approach for Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha early enough – failing to balk at the Eagles’ £80m valuation.
While Zaha is a fine player, he was never worth anything near that fee and somewhere closer to half – but Moshiri seemingly fails to take no for an answer, even though his own DoF knew he wasn’t a realistic target.
With Everton looking for one more attacking option, super-agent Kia Joorabchian got involved – suggesting one of his own clients in the shape of Alex Iwobi.
Moshiri, a known associate of the Iranian, pursued the deal, meaning Everton went into negotiations looking at one style of winger and came out with another, signing the Nigerian for an eye-watering £27.3m.
Iwobi has played 80 games since as a hybrid between a sluggish winger and mythical number ten, contributing to just eleven goals in that time with only three Premier League strikes to his name.
Of all the bad business Everton have done – and there has been plenty – Iwobi is surely the worst, especially when it feels as if it was only a favour to a friend.
Silva began to wilt under the pressure and was duly dismissed in December 2019 following a 5-2 hammering in the Merseyside Derby. The Everton board instated Duncan Ferguson in temporary charge, while Moshiri hunted for his fourth manager in just three years.
The project with Silva was to build from the ground up and create a youthful team with a coach to match – but once again he changed course. He had always wanted a ‘Hollywood name’, and that search took him to the door of three-time Champions League-winning coach Carlo Ancelotti.
It should be mentioned that the Italian was a very popular choice of manager, for obvious reasons. But issues remained: Everton appointed a winner, but did not have the facilities to win.
They had jumped ahead and left several key stages behind – Moshiri envisaged a yacht and clear blue skies, but in reality, it was the Ever Given inside the Suez canal. There were players from three or four different philosophies running through the spine of the team, and the disarray was clear for all to see.
Again, more money was spent. James Rodríguez joined to the shock of many, along with Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré, while Ben Godfrey signed from Norwich.
This indicated the most stable period of Moshiri’s ownership. In Carlo, the fans had a manager that they could trust and count on in the difficult times, while the squad was the best it had looked since the David Moyes days.
They won away to Liverpool for the first time since 1999 and claimed the club’s first ever victories at the Emirates and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – but the new Everton era has been built on a bedrock of bad decisions, and just as they appeared to be turning a corner, the luck finally ran out.
Zinedine Zidane called time on his second coming at Real Madrid in May of 2021, with initial links suggesting Carlo Ancelotti was being lined up for the job.
The reports seemed scarcely believable; Madrid could go out and attract practically any manager they wanted to in world football, why on earth would they come sniffing around the man who had just finished 10th in the Premier League?
Evertonians feel as if their club is cursed, and as Ancelotti signed on the dotted line to return to the Bernabéu just a week later, you can really believe why that is the case.
For a change, there can be some sympathy for the Everton hierarchy. Ancelotti had begun plans for the 2021/22 campaign with transfer targets laid out, then once more it was time to start again – but perhaps that wasn’t the worst thing.
Everton had proved they could consistently match up against the best sides in the league away from home, and while Ancelotti was generally excellent at Goodison, consistent home defeats and a limited style of play worried some sections of fans.
Perhaps losing a manager who was on insane wages without having to fork out millions in compensation for a change wasn’t the worst result, especially with Brands there to lead the club in a new direction. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been, but with Moshiri, there is insanity waiting around every corner.
He inexplicably hired Rafa Benítez as Everton’s new manager. His desire to hire a ‘big’ name rather than a manager suited to the project told once more, but Benítez had not dined at Europe’s top table for a while and for good reason.
After leaving Newcastle he joined Dalian Professional in China, returning to the UK with a 31% win rate and no obvious route to turn – until Farhad Moshiri gave him a call.
Most fans despised the move. Not only had Benítez managed Liverpool, but while at the helm he referred to Everton as a ‘small club’ – although many Blues fans will tell you his Liverpool links aren’t even in the top ten reasons for why he was such a poor choice.
Everton’s chickens had come home to roost after years of lavish spending, with FFP hanging around the club’s neck like a noose they needed stability – not a man who took the reins at seven different clubs in the previous decade.
By: James Pendleton / @jpends_
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Simon Stacpoole / Offside