May 15: Southampton finished sixth in the Premier League, qualified for the 2016-17 Europa League campaign and Ronald Koeman was lauded for delivering Saints’ highest-ever finish and points tally in the PL era for the second-straight season.
Days later, it was clear Koeman’s head was elsewhere and a few weeks later he’s on the verge of joining Everton as their new manager.
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In the past 10 days speculation has been rife that Koeman, 53, would swap St Mary’s for Goodison Park and all we’re waiting for now is official confirmation that he is the new Toffees chief which should arrive by tomorrow at the latest.
ProSoccerTalk understands an $8 million compensation package has been agreed between Everton and Saints for Koeman as the Dutchman had one-year left on the three-year deal he signed in the summer of 2014 when he took over at Southampton.
How, though, did everything change so quickly for him at Southampton?
A source with inside knowledge of the situation has confirmed to ProSoccerTalk that even as recent as last week when Koeman arrived back from a Caribbean vacation, Saints believed he would sign the two-year contract extension they had offered him to become the highest-paid manager in club history. He had held several “positive” meetings with Southampton’s executive director Les Reed and everything pointed towards him remaining in charge for another three years.
Yet, when he arrived back from St. Barts it was clear that was no longer the case.
A pivotal factor in that was Koeman switching his agent in late May, replacing Guido Albers with Rob Jansen. That’s when the first alarm bells started to ring at St Mary’s after months of speculation surrounding Koeman’s future with just 12 months left on his current deal. The Dutchman has stated several times since January that he would see out the final year of his deal at Saints, at least, and officials at the club believed that would be the case until the situation took a dramatic twist over the past 5-7 days.
There had been subtle changes in Koeman’s rhetoric in the past few months during constant questions from the media about his contract situation at Saints. Talk of finding out if his own ambition was going to be matched by Southampton was frequent but it never truly seemed like he wouldn’t be in charge at St Mary’s next season.
A source has confirmed to ProSoccerTalk that Koeman and his old agent, Albers, were happy to sign the lucrative new contract at Southampton but after Jansen arrived and with Everton said to be offering in excessive of $7 million per year for the former Barcelona and Holland defender to replace Roberto Martinez, things changed. Quickly.
Officials at Southampton are said to be frustrated by Koeman’s impending departure but are already working through a shortlist of candidates to replace him and continue their incredible ascent going. Since their rise from the third-tier in 2011, Saints have now recorded higher finishes in terms of their league position in each of the last seven campaigns.
ProSoccerTalk also understands that several members of Southampton’s first-team squad who were said to be unhappy under Koeman are now happy to stay at St Mary’s and see who arrives as the new boss.
Surrounding all of that, the debate about whether or not Everton is a step up or a sideways move for Koeman is an endless one.
Southampton have finished above Everton in each of the past two seasons but Koeman perhaps felt he delivered all he could at Saints given the mass player sales he had to endure in his first summer in charge, then both Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne leaving last summer. With new Everton owner Farhad Moshiri reportedly handing Koeman $150 million to spend on new players, plus their larger global fanbase and history of greater success compared to Saints, perhaps Koeman fancied the challenge of awakening a sleeping giant of English soccer.
We will find out the answers to those questions in the coming days but one thing we do know is things changed for Koeman at Saints very quickly as he decided his future was elsewhere.