Ronald Koeman

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Has Everton’s expensive rebuild given it Top Four hope?

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There’s one each August.

Take last season. Buoyed by a seventh place finish under Slaven Bilic in 2015-16, West Ham United spent to bring Andre Ayew, Manuel Lanzini, Håvard Nordtveit, Gokhan Tore, Simone Zaza and a host of others to town.

Some worked out, some didn’t, some were hurt, but the Irons didn’t move the needle in taking all season to build any semblance of form. Prone to losing streaks, West Ham lost four-straight and five-straight matches in the PL, going six and seven games without a win.

[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

This year, it’s again the seventh place finisher making noise, and some think Everton could finish higher than Merseyside rivals Liverpool in Ronald Koeman‘s second year on the job.

The Toffees need to handle Hajduk Split over two legs to reach the UEFA Europa League group stage, and Koeman has built up enough quality to make a deep run in the tournament and a nice climb in the Premier League standings.

When the biggest question mark of the big summer additions is England’s all-time leading scorer, well, big things are going to be expected from Goodison Park.

Everton has added Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaasen, Sandro Ramirez, Michael Keane, and Jordan Pickford. Those are potential impact players right up the middle of the pitch (perhaps with Sandro shipped wide because of Rooney). The Toffees still have Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gana Gueye as a killer midfield duo, Ashley Williams to team with Keane, and any number of prospects and valuable commodities (plus the leg peg of Leighton Baines).

And rumor has it Gylfi Sigurdsson is going to end up at Goodison.

Sure the club sold Romelu Lukaku and will be without influential fullback Seamus Coleman for some time, but there are many reasons to believe the Toffees can reach new heights.

Here’s the rub: and it’s the schedule. How far behind will the Toffees be in their chase for the Top Four after opening the campaign home to Stoke, then away to Man City, away to Chelsea, home to Spurs, and away to Bournemouth (with the Hajduk Split matches mixed into the first three encounters)?

That’s one heck of a gauntlet, one laden with away obstacles. But navigating that mess and still being within shouting distance will be a major victory, and one that could propel Everton’s status as a contender deep into the season.

Europa League roundup: Everton, Milan move on

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Everton, AC Milan, and Marseille were among the name sides to avoid stumbling before the playoff round of the UEFA Europa League.

PSV Eindhoven, Freiburg, Gent, and Aberdeen? Not-so-much.

[ MORE: Latest Neymar news ]

The playoff round draw is Friday morning.

Milan 2-0 (3-0 agg.) Craiova

Giacomo Bonaventura gave the hosts a great exhalation with his ninth minute goal, and Patrick Cutrone scored his first Milan goal in the 52nd minute to help i Rossoneri waltz into the playoff round, its first European win since March 2014.

Ruzomberok 0-1 (0-2 agg.) Everton

Leading by one after the first leg, Ronald Koeman‘s men held firm at the back and youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin came off the bench to give the Premier Leaguers breathing room and a spot in the UEFA Europa League playoffs, where they’ll be a seeded side and avoid most of the big names (Marseille, Milan, Ajax, Athletic Bilbao, Zenit Saint Petersburg).

Full scoreboard
Sion 1-1 (1-4) Suduva — Weds.
AEL 1-2 (1-2) Austria Wien — Weds.
Dinamo Minsk 1-1 (1-3) AEK Larnaca
Shkendija 3-0 (4-2) Trakai
Odd 0-0 (1-2) Dinamo Zagreb
Zenit Saint Petersburg 0-1 (2-1) Bnei Yehuda
Sparta Prague 0-1 (0-3) Crvena Zvezda
Apollon 2-0 (3-2) Aberdeen
Olexandriya 1-0 (1-0) Astra
Videoton 1-0 (2-2) Videoton
Gabala 1-2 (1-3) Panathinaikos
Fola 1-2 (1-3) Ostersund
Fenerbahce 1-1 (3-2) Sturm
Lyngby 1-3 (2-5) Krasnodar
Maritimo 2-0 (2-0) Botev Plovdiv
PAOK 2-0 (3-1) Olimpik Donetsk
Skenderbeu 2-1 (3-3, 4-2 on PKs) Mlada Boleslav
Lech 2-2 (2-2) Utrecht
Altach 3-1 (4-2) Gent
Hajduk Split 2-0 (2-0) Brondby
Midtjylland 2-1 (4-4) Arka
Oostende 0-0 (2-4) Marseille
Athletic Bilbao 3-0 (4-1) Dinamo Bucharest
Osijek 1-0 (2-0) PSV Eindhoven
Panionios 0-1 (0-2) Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Domzale 2-0 (2-1) Freiburg
Braga 2-1 et (3-2) AIK

Ronald Koeman confirms Ross Barkley to leave Everton

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Ronald Koeman has confirmed that Ross Barkley will not play for Everton.

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Barkley, 23, has just one year left on his current deal at Everton but the playmaker has turned down a new deal with his boyhood club and Koeman revealed he wants a “new challenge” elsewhere.

When asked if he was certain Barkley would leave Koeman replied “100 percent” but he did state that there aren’t any offers on the table as things stand.

Ahead of Everton’s UEFA Europa League third qualifying round firs leg against MFK Ruzomberok at Goodison Park on Thursday, Koeman revealed the new about Barkley. 

“His personal situation is not so difficult. We made a really good offer to him to sign a new contract and he declined that contract and he told me he is looking for a new challenge,” Koeman said. “It is not Everton’s future anymore. It is his decision. I need to respect that and we will see what happens because what I heard from the board at the moment, it’s not really an offer on the table for Ross.”

The England international is currently recovering from surgery on his groin and is expected to be out until the end of August.

With Davy Klaassen, Wayne Rooney and Sandro Ramirez arriving this summer, plus the Toffees pushing hard to sign Gylfi Sigurdsson from Swansea City, it’s not difficult to see why Barkley sees his future elsewhere and the enigmatic attacking midfielder was criticized by Koeman on multiple occasions last season.

Where could Barkley go?

Tottenham and Arsenal are destinations which keep cropping up but neither are likely to spend over $30 million to bring him to north London and neither are exactly short of playmaking midfielders. It’s probably right that Barkley, once the brightest hope of English soccer, gets a fresh start elsewhere as his contract situation has left the fanbase, and Koeman, more than a little frustrated over the past 12 months.

After losing his starting spot with the English national team to Dele Alli over the past year, plus his regular spot at Everton under severe threat, Barkley’s career is reaching a pivotal stage.

The young talent who burst onto the scene ahead of the 2014 World Cup was supposed to be the next Rooney but his career is in real danger of petering out if he doesn’t find the right club to fit his talents and help him regain his form. The talent is there with Barkley but many, including Koeman, have questioned his commitment to truly realize his potential.

Everton announces Wayne Rooney signing

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A transfer in the works for a week or two is now complete as Wayne Rooney moves back to the club he started with.

Everton announced the signing of the Manchester United captain, with the caption of “Once a Blue…” and Rooney autographing the camera lens.

The club then confirmed that the 31-year-old signed a two-year deal with the club and a telling message from disciplinarian manager Ronald Koeman. “Wayne has shown me that ambition that we need and that winning mentality,” Koeman said in the official club release. “He knows how to win titles and I’m really happy he’s decided to come home.”

Rooney rose through the ranks in the Everton youth squads and played for the Toffees for two seasons before leaving for Manchester United. He scored 17 goals in 77 appearances for Everton across all competitions.

“It’s a great feeling to be back,” Rooney told the official Everton website. “I’m excited, I cannot wait to meet the lads, get on the training pitch and then get on the pitch to play. I’m ecstatic – I just cannot wait to get back playing.”

“I’m excited, and I’m excited by the signings that the Club have made. This club is moving forward. This football club should be winning trophies and we’re taking huge steps to being involved and trying to win trophies.”

The official release declares Rooney returned for an “undisclosed fee” but reports have claimed over the last week that it is a free transfer.

Koeman not confident Barkley will stay at Everton; “not worried” either

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One week ago Friday, Ronald Koeman reiterated Everton’s stance that Ross Barkley is still very much wanted at Goodison Park, provided he signs a new long-term contract soon — very soon… like, before-the-start-of-the-summer soon.

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With the 2016-17 Premier League season coming to close with Championship Sunday in less than 48 hours’ time, time is running out on the (loose) club-imposed deadline for Barkley to accept and sign the contract offered to him. Whether or not the 23-year-old opts to sign, Koeman wants everyone to believe he’s not bothered either way — quotes from the Guardian:

“Either he accepts the contract, or we sell the player.”

When then asked if he felt confident that Barkley would stay, Koeman said: “No, because it is a long time that he is thinking about his future. But I’m not worried because I like to work with players who like to stay. And it is not about his decision. We will go on. We are looking for players in that position. Even if he stays, there will be more competition for him next season.”

“If you offer a player a new contract, and a good contract, that means that you like to keep the player. I spoke to the player, the board spoke to the player and his agent. We need an answer after the weekend. I don’t know what will happen if he doesn’t give any answer about that.”

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As Koeman says, Everton will either retain arguably their second-best player (Romelu Lukaku‘s future will likely turn into a protracted transfer saga as well), or they’ll cash in for a fee of around $30 million. The problem is, without UEFA Champions League football to offer incoming recruits, they’re unlikely to land a replacement of Barkley’s caliber.