Carlo Ancelotti arrived at Everton in December, the perfect answer to owner Farhad Moshiri’s long-held ambition to have his own “Hollywood manager” in the north-west.
One of only three managers to win the European Cup/Champions League three times alongside Liverpool’s Bob Paisley and Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane, Ancelotti was taking on a different type of assignment after being sacked by Napoli.
Everton required major renewal whereas Ancelotti’s previous speciality had been as a facilitator of world-class players, earning the label ‘the diva whisperer’ for his ability to soothe the ego while coaxing stellar performances from high-maintenance personalities.
His early coaching days were at Reggiana and Parma in Italy – but does Everton represent his hardest job?
Kevin Ratcliffe, Everton’s most successful captain after leading them to two titles, the FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup in the mid-1980s, told BBC Sport: “Your first job in management is always your toughest because you are trying to make your mark and prove yourself but this might be his toughest since.
“In the past he has maybe plugged holes and had great players but Everton have got big, big holes and no great players. It is really a total rebuild.”
Everton’s season ended with dismal performances, especially away to Wolverhampton Wanderers and at home to Bournemouth, but Ancelotti’s overall results offered some encouragement and ensured safety with a Premier League finish of 12th.
‘Unfit for purpose’ – what are Ancelotti’s priorities?
Ancelotti’s priorities were laid bare in a painful last few games, particularly in a midfield that is arguably the worst in recent Everton history, with Tom Davies and Andre Gomes struggling badly and Gylfi Sigurdsson flouting his billing as a £45m creative influence.
This key area needs a complete overhaul.
Everton’s current midfield is unfit for purpose, lacking energy while offering little supply to strikers Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin and no protection for Ancelotti’s defence.
Ratcliffe says: “When Everton played against teams that had more energy, they struggled.
“If I look at that midfield there is no legs. Where is the energy, the composure on the ball?”
Is Pickford now a serious problem?
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, undisputed number one since his £30m move from Sunderland three seasons ago, had a dreadful campaign highlighted by a series of high-profile blunders.
In the past three seasons, he is top of the list for mistakes by Premier League keepers that have led to goals with 10, alongside Asmir Begovic. He had an outstanding first season on Merseyside but there is no doubt he has regressed to such an extent his England place is now up for debate.
Ratcliffe said: “Have a look at his competition. It’s not very good.
“The people he trains with are not making him better. He should be improving. He needs more pressure on him.
“He has had Maarten Stekelenburg, Jonas Lossl and young Joao Virginia as his competition. I wouldn’t want any of those reserve goalkeepers playing on a regular basis for Everton. It might sound harsh but standards must be high.”
Ancelotti must solve years of mismanagement
Ancelotti agreed a four-and-a-half-year deal worth a reported £9m per annum. It will take much of that term to turn this dysfunctional Everton around.
Since majority shareholder Moshiri bought into Everton in February 2016, he has sacked Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce and latterly Marco Silva.
Dutchman Marcel Brands is now working alongside Ancelotti as director of football.
This will be a key element of Everton’s summer but will there have to be compromises in what Ancelotti has already called a “beautiful relationship”?
Brands looks to bring in younger players to develop, increasing in value. Will Ancelotti still want the more hardened professionals to toughen up this mentally fragile Everton?
The word from inside Everton is that Ancelotti is “totally aligned” with Brands and the board on how they will approach this transfer window.
Ratcliffe said: “Recruitment has let Everton down. They have spent over the odds and paid ridiculous wages for average players.
“The club has been mismanaged with the managers appointed. How did Marco Silva get the Everton job? Where on his CV in the Premier League did it say he was right for that job? He took Hull City down and faded at Watford after a good start.
“You look at Gylfi Sigurdsson being signed for £45m. He was signed as a number 10 and is then played on the left wing because Everton already had two number 10s in Wayne Rooney and Davy Klaassen. Where was the thinking there?”
Ancelotti and Brands now have a bloated squad where so much deadwood has been assembled some cynics have suggested the club’s Finch Farm training HQ is in danger of being labelled a fire hazard.
Who will take Sigurdsson, Fabian Delph, Cenk Tosun, Theo Walcott and even Alex Iwobi, signed for an eye-watering £34m from Arsenal on deadline day last summer?
How long will Ancelotti’s rebuild take?
Ancelotti, with his usual measured wisdom, has talked about “evolution” rather than revolution but there is still serious urgency required in this transfer window.
A long, tough road lies ahead.
He has been promised total support in the markets within the parameters of Financial Fair Play.
It is not, though, as simple as that.
“Everton have been spending money on players without having a top-class manager,” says Ratcliffe.
“Ancelotti is a top-class manager but the biggest problem he has got is trying to recoup some of the money Everton have spent. This will take more than a year.
“He has to look right down the middle. They need an authoritative centre-back, a dominant midfield player, a striker and another wide man.
“It is also difficult to see where the leaders are when they are losing games.”
And this is why, after years building a reputation as one of the most decorated coaches in the history of the game, Ancelotti now faces a different, herculean task.