With a second successive season of failure about to be consigned to the history books, Roberto Martinez's future at Everton is squarely under the microscope with all the anecdotal evidence and that provided by online polls and the mood on fan websites and social media suggesting that the majority of Evertonians feel his time is up.
Such is the Catalan's faith in his own ability and philosophy, he no doubt remains convinced that he can eventually turn things around and is, therefore, unlikely to fall on his sword. That will put the onus on Chairman Bill Kenwright, the Board of Directors and, most likely, new shareholder Farhad Moshiri to analyse the situation and make a decision on how the club should proceed.
If, as seems only logical at this stage, they opt to dismiss Martinez, either in the short-term or at the end of the season, the question of who replaces him becomes one of vital importance. With that in mind, it's almost certain that a shortlist already exists in someone's mind, but who could conceivably be on it and what is the likelihood the Blues could get their top choice?
Moshiri's promised investment could be game-changing for Everton in terms of the calibre of manager they could entice to Goodison Park and the financial resources they could put behind him. Whereas the club has had to promote from within, import candidates from Scotland, or take a chance on an up-and-coming manager from a smaller club, this could be the first time in a long time that the Blues could have a realistic shot at bringing in a proven winner.
ToffeeWeb takes a look at some of the potential candidates.
"The Moon Shots"
Neck and neck with Barcelona in La Liga, through to the semi-finals of the Champions League and guaranteed to be on the European gravy train next season, there is no earthly reason why the Argentine would jump the Rojiblanco ship for Goodison Park. Not unless he genuinely likes a challenge and there are precious few among the game's top managers who would willingly take a step down to prove something. And you've got to think that if he harboured any desire to come to the Premier League any time soon, Chelsea would have nabbed him ahead of Antonio Conte.
Nevertheless, Simeone's unmistakable passion, inspirational take-no-crap persona and attention to defensive solidity, all combined with Latin American roots and Continental experience, would make him an ideal candidate for Everton, much like his former international team-mate Mauricio Pochettino is proving to be for Tottenham. We can but dreamâ€¦
By no means everyone's cup of tea, there are plenty of Evertonians who were so turned off by his arrogance in front of the media and his role in the Eva Carneiro controversy that they wouldn't want him anywhere near Goodison Park. Then there's the fact that, just as seems to be happening to Roberto Martinez, the Portuguese was sacked by Chelsea after a very obvious falling out with his players – the quintessential loss of the dressing room – not to mention his "third season" handicap.
Mourinho is a proven winner, though, has shown himself to be a master tactician at times – as Liverpool FC know all too well – and any association with Everton would markedly improve the club's stature in the eyes of the world's media. You can't escape the feeling, however, that it would be short, controversial and not not conducive to long-term stability.
In the process of building something special at Borussia Dortmund, Tuchel was put forward by a few Everton fans familiar with the Bundesliga as a potential successor to David Moyes when he was still at Mainz. Anyone who watched his team dismantle Tottenham so effectively in the Europa League will have seen how well he has moved BVB on from JÃ¼rgen Klopp's work and the feeling there is they have found the man to "build a dynasty" at the Westfalenstadion.
An exponent of playing football the right way who is on course for the Champions League with Die Schwarzgelben there's little prospect he could be tempted to Everton. Besides, he already has one Anfield collapse on his CV; hardly the best qualification for a Toffees boss!
Frank de Boer
The younger of the Dutch twins crops up in connection with most Premier League vacancies these days and was talked about as a candidate to take over at the likes of Newcastle United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in recent years. In terms of footballing pedigree, they don't come much better. Capped 112 times by the Netherlands, he spent a decade as a player at Ajax Amsterdam before moving on to Barcelona where he also played with his brother, Ronald, making close to 150 appearances.
As a manager, De Boer is regarded as one of the best European coaches yet to be tested at the top level. He was assistant manager under Phillip Cocu at the 2010 World Cup but it is back at Ajax where he has been cutting his managerial teeth winning four successive Eredivisie titles, a first for the Dutch league, and is two games away from winning a fifth championship in six years if he can stave off the challenge of last season's winners PSV Eindhoven.
He turned down the Anfield gig three years ago but could now be ready to make the leap to the Premier League but the doubters will cite the weakness of the Eredivisie as the biggest knock against De Boer: even Steve McLaren won the title there! Nevertheless, his success has come about as a result of overcoming the need to rely heavily on youth at Ajax due to the club's lack of financial clout.
The Dutch have a fine reputation when it comes to managers and Koeman, another footballing brother from Holland who played for Barca, is forging an impressive career as a manager, following up five stints in the Eredevisie with Vitesse, Ajax, AZ Alkmaar, PSV and Feyenoord with a move to Southampton to succeed Pochettino at St Mary's Stadium.
Although he arrived at Southampton on the back of another exodus of talent, most of it to Liverpool again, Koeman bought wisely, picking up game-changing players like Dusan Tadic for modest fees and steered the south coast club to the Europa League in his first season.
The Saints were eliminated early and experienced a mid-term wobble this season that suggested the bloom had come off Koeman's rose a little but, unlike Martinez in 2014-15, he has managed to steady the ship and they are in contention for Europe again this time around.
The blend of flair, physique and defensive prowess he is creating at Southampton are just the kinds of qualities that Evertonian admirers see in him and it's not hard to envision what he might be able to do with the talent that exists at Everton. He is yet to sign a new contract at St Mary's, with his current deal set to expire next year, which could be a sign that he is hedging on a bigger appointment coming his way but many see his medium-term future at a bigger club on the Continent.
The fly in this particular ointment? His assistant is "fat, round and bounces on the ground". Yes, Sammy Lee.
He has already won the League Cup and could yet win the Champions League but the Chilean will still be out of a job this summer. That has made him a staple for any conversation about a potential successor to Martinez even though it seems far more likely that he will return to Spain, possibly with manager-less Valencia.
Given that he is already in the northwest and now has plenty of experience with the Premier League, a move to Everton where there could be the promise of a sizeable budget and, if you believe the media, a couple of his former transfer targets already in place in the form of Ross Barkley and John Stones could be tempting. But not, perhaps, as much as La Ligaâ€¦
Critics of Pellegrini, however, point to his profligacy with cash at City – the colossal expenditure on Eliaquim Mangala and Raheem Sterling, two signings who together cost getting on for Â£90m but have failed to set the Etihad alight. Couple that with his team's suspect defence and, at times, questionable mentality and you get the feeling he would just be a more successful Martinez who would struggle without an open chequebook and a massive budget.
The former City boss, popular among Blues because of the success Everton teams enjoyed against his teams when he was in Manchester, is back at Internazionale for a second spell after serving just a year of a three-year contract at Galatasaray. Inter sit fourth in Serie A, exactly where they finished in 2014-15 and the season before that.
Mancini would bring knowledge of the English game and some much-needed emphasis on shoring up the back as a foundation for winning tight games but the manner in which his relationship with players and staff at City deteriorated before his team lost the 2013 FA Cup Final to Wigan and he was sacked will not inspire much confidence that he would be the right fit at Goodison.
Back-to-back Europa League titles and on course for a possible treble, Emery has been unable to translate success in the European competition into a successful assault on the top four in La Liga, largely because the Andalusian club still operates on a footing of selling its best players to remain competitive.
Raised as a potential successor to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and reportedly in the frame for the West Ham job before Slaven Bilic's appointment, Emery has been credited with a studious outlook on the game combined with a tough streak and considerable man-management skills. Gerard Deulofeu might disagree based on his negative experience playing under him in the 2014-15 season but the Spanish winger's experience back at Everton this terms suggests that he needs more long-term attention than a year-long loan can provide.
Whatever happens in the Europa League this season, Emery could be ready to try and fresh challenge so it would not be a surprise if he were linked should a vacancy open up at Everton this summer.
If you believe the press, the Argentine's people have already been drumming up talk of him being approached by Everton to get his name out there so he looks to be in the market for his next gig after a strange stint at Marseille where he quit after the first game of the 2015-16 season citing disagreements with the French club's board. He's not nicknamed El Loco for nothing.
His stock in the world game is high, though, and Bielsa counts the likes of Pep Guardiola and Spurs' Pochettino among his biggest admirers, mostly for what he achieved as manager of the Chilean national team and Athletic Bilbao where he narrowly missed out on a Europa League and Spanish cup double. Regarded as something of a master tactician, with the 3-3-3-1 formation at the root of his philosophy, he would bring something very different to Goodison from past Everton managers.
The language barrier has been cited as a potential stumbling block – he doesn't speak English – but that didn't stop Pochettino who is now virtually fluent and on a roll now at White Hart Lane in his second season in charge.
It's surprising how many Evertonians would consider the Spaniard as a potential Everton boss given his former association with Liverpool and "small club" jibe at the Blues while he was at Anfield. Perhaps his time with Real Madrid and the passage of a good amount of water under the bridge has lessened the ill feeling towards him.
Benitez signed a three-year contract with Newcastle when he succeeded McClaren recently but if he fails to keep the Magpies in the Premier League this season – not in itself a glowing recommendation, particularly given Everton's experience with the last manager they hired immediately following relegation – he could have exit clauses that would allow him a route back into the top flight or back to another post abroad.
[Added post-publication based on comments below.] The Swiss attracted much attention for the manner in which he reversed the fortunes of Borussia MÃ¶nchengladbach between 2011 and 2015, taking them from rock bottom of the Bundesliga when he took over to Champions League qualification a year ago.
He didn't get to see through Die Fohlen's campaign in Europe, however, as he resigned as manager in September last year after losing all five of the first league games of the 2015-16 season. As such, he is currently unemployed.
Favre's coaching philosophy is described on his Wikipedia entry as favouring "dynamic, quick and attack-minded football where ball possession and change of tempo alternate. Favre is also well known for his ability to develop talented young players and introduce them into the first team."
"The Unlikely Lads"
Another experienced, well-travelled manager who will be out of a job this summer, Hiddink is mentioned frequently whenever the topic of replacing Martinez comes up. Two reasonably successful stand-in jobs at Chelsea – he won the FA Cup first time around and led an impressive surge back into the top half of the Premier League this time but has seen his fortunes stagnate a little of late, with the Londoners exiting the Champions League at the hands of PSG.
He also oversaw the Netherlands' awful start to their Euro2016 qualifying campaign, one riven by unrest in the camp which, again, would cast doubt on his ability to properly mend any serious breakdown in morale at Everton.
In any case, Hiddink has openly said that he will probably retire after he steps down at Chelsea this summer, rendering much discussion about him moot.
In contrast to the drawn-out decline of the Martinez era, Villas-Boas was given surprisingly short shrift by Daniel Levy at Tottenham, sacking him just 14 months into the job with Spurs sitting in 7th in the Premier League and with a 100% record in the Europa League group phase. While his season with Chelsea was underwhelming, he left White Hart Lane with Tottenham's highest win percentage of the Premier League era, one no doubt bettered this season by Mauricio Pochettino.
Having steered Zenit St Petersburg into the Champions League in his first season and won the Russian League in his second, Villas-Boas announced that he would be returning to Portugal for the sake of his family. It has also been said that he harbours no desire at this stage to manage again in England. So, while he would be attainable by Everton given his previous experience in the Premier League, it doesn't look as though Villas-Boas would be an option.
Roberto di Matteo
If ever a manager's experience exemplified the lack of patience at Chelsea under Roman Abramovich, di Matteo's surely did. The Italian won the FA Cup and the Champions League in 2012 as one of the London club's many temporary managers over the years but was sacked just a few months after he was given the job on a permanent basis.
His solitary season as manager after that at Schalke 04 was less successful and he resigned last May after failing to make the Champions League. Another Roberto with just cup success and a limited track record in the Premier League? Perhaps not.
The Dane was high on the list of potential candidates to replace Moyes three years ago, more perhaps for his pedigree, eye for a player, and the style of football he advocates than his record at Swansea. He was dismissed by the Swans with the club sitting just above the relegation zone which hardly inspires confidence in his ability to lift Everton back to where the club wants to be.
Since leaving the Liberty Stadium, he had a successful season in Qatar with Lekhwiya where he won the league and cup double but elected not to stay on and is currently out of the game.
As an assistant to Roy Hodgson in the England setup and arguably the most respected pundit on Sky Sports, the elder Neville brother built up tremendous cachet but it didn't translate to success in La Liga with Valencia where he survived 29 games before being sacked earlier this season.
Whether his knowledge of the game would be better employed back in the Premier League remains to be seen but in their position Everton can't afford to take a punt on an unknown quantity. Plus, there's unlikely to be much enthusiasm for his brother returning to Goodison Park given how closely he us associated with the dour David Moyes regime.
One of the more highly-regarded young managers in England, Howe is favoured by some Evertonians as much for the fact that he has admitted to being a boyhood fan of the Blues as for the impressive work he has done at Bournemouth. The 38-year-old guided them up the league ladder and into the top flight last year and has since defied a potentially crippling series of injuries to key players and the massive odds stacked against his small club to achieve almost certain safety from relegation.
Without access to top-quality players, it's hard to determine what brand of football Howe would implement at a club like Everton but his desire to manage his clubs from top-to-bottom, his generally positive outlook and motivational instincts would stand him in good stead. Pleasingly to Evertonian ears, he prefers fast-tempo football with a pass-and-move ethos.
Howe has extensive experience managing at all levels of the English game but his brief stint at Burnley was curtailed in part because of his desire to return to the south for family reasons. That could preclude him coming to Merseyside should he end up on Everton's shortlist but his lack of top-level experience and any proven success should rule him out of the running.
Another name that frequently comes up is that of the current Burnley boss who is trying to steer the Clarets back to the Premier League again following their relegation last season. In that sense and as a coach with no demonstrable success, he arguably deserves less consideration than Eddie Howe whose Cherries side currently sits in 12th place in the top flight this season, comfortably clear of the drop zone.
Notable for this stint as assistant manager at Real Madrid for whom he also made 93 appearances, Karanka has been at the helm at the Riverside for the last three years.
His Middlesbrough side are being pushed all the way by Burnley and Brighton for the automatic promotion slots this season but the Spaniard started turning heads earlier this season due to his side's impressive defensive record in the Championship and their League Cup victory over Louis van Gaal's Manchester United on penalties in October.
The similarities with Roberto Martinez might be far too unsettlingly uncanny for Evertonians, however. Like the current incumbent of the Goodison hotseat, Karanka is 42, Spanish, and was appointed to his present gig in 2013. As if that weren't enough, he has also been criticised recently for his rigid adherence to a particular footballing philosophy following a row with his players after which he was temporarily suspended from his position. His reaction to the criticism: "I don't think I am the problem. I've been here two years and, with my way, the team is improving. I don't think I have to change." Sound familiar?
Given his genius as a player, you almost feel that it's a given that the ex-Holland star will become a top-class manager. Things don't always work out like that and Everton aren't really in the position where they could take a flyer on a novice no matter how glittering his pedigree.
Bergkamp is currently cutting his teeth as Frank de Boer's assistant at Ajax and you would think he has his eye on eventually replacing his former international team-mate if and when he moves on to pastures new.
While he remains unemployed, the former Everton boss will always be mentioned in connection with any vacancy at Goodison Park, as if Evertonians would be so desperate for another era of familiar but unspectacular and barren consistency that they couldn't wait to get him back in.
Over 11 years, Moyes's tenure ran its course and it was clear he had taken the team as far as he could long before he eventually left. By the time he did, many behind the scenes at Goodison and Finch Farm couldn't wait to see the back of him and Martinez's sunny optimism was seen as breath of fresh air when he arrived in 2013. They say "never go back" and that applies here. The Moyes era was just what we needed when he came but we need to aim higher now. Just say no.
One more name that constantly comes up although it's hard to know why. He failed to achieve anything at Manchester City and hasn't set the world alight at any of the other clubs he has managed either. Despite overseeing Stoke's best squad of the Premier League era, Hughes is struggling to keep the Potters above Everton in the table with a defence even more porous than Martinez's.
There is a list of other names that frequently get tossed around that also deserve to be on this list like Neil Lennon, Paul Lambert and Martin O'Neill as well as past flavours of the month who aren't worth considering until they've achieved something like Quique Flores.
Whether it be because they're gaining valuable experience away from Goodison – and doing fairly well in some cases – or purely because of the impulse to get Evertonian back into the hotseat, a number of ex-players are routinely put forward as managerial candidates for the Blues.
Alan Stubbs and David Weir in Scotland as manager with Hibs and assistant boss at Rangers respectively but few feel that the weaker Scottish league is any indication of future success in the English Premier League.
There are options currently working at Finch Farm, too, of course, but, again none apart from Joe Royle have high-level experience and he would fall under the "never go back" category. Duncan Ferguson, David Unsworth and Kevin Sheedy all have a fair way to go before they could be considered ready for the big job at Everton and would probably need to go get full managerial experience away from the club first.
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