Football is a game that is ruled by decisions and very rarely is one made in the game without there being a loser in some part.
Everton, however, will be feeling like the losers from a decision they had no part in this summer. While the club were focused on signing players, there was also a need to change up the backroom team.
Marco Silva’s longstanding assistant Joao Pedro Sousa, who had worked with the Blues boss at all of his previous managerial jobs (Sporting Lisbon, Olympiakos, Hull City and Watford, and played alongside him at Trofense) decided it was time to move on.
Not because of a relationship breakdown, or unhappiness at Goodison Park, but to start the long climb up the managerial ladder himself.
Sousa headed back to Portugal, electing to accept an offer from newly-promoted Famalicão to take up the reins and lead them in their first campaign back in Liga NOS.
It was a brave decision for Sousa to make. Not only was he leaving relative comfort alongside a friend and long-time colleague in Silva at Everton, but he was also taking charge of a small club in their first season back in the top-flight and replacing the man who had gotten them there.
Hardly an easy job for your first as a manager, and one that plenty would have turned down. Not Sousa, though, who relished the chance to take charge and begin his managerial career.
It’s a decision he will currently be delighted he made. Six games into the season, Famalicão sit top of Liga NOS with sixteen points to their name, one more than giants Porto and Benfica and double those of Sporting.
In a league dominated by three clubs, the aforementioned Porto, Benfica and Sporting, it’s a noteworthy achievement. Those three clubs have 83 league titles between them and only twice in the history of the division have any of them failed to win the league.
They are not doing things the easy way either. Monday night saw them beat Sporting 2-1 away from home, coming from behind to do so. It was their first win in 22 games against the Lions and a significant result.
Not only did it keep them top of the table but meant, for the first time in 11 years, a side other than the traditional big three topped the table after matchday six. It’s a sign that Sousa and his team are onto something good and this surge to the top of the table is no flash in the pan.
Back at Everton, meanwhile, and Silva is not enjoying the kind of success that his former assistant is basking in. Comparisons of quality between the Premier League and Liga NOS aside, Everton are not in good shape.
Six games into the season and Everton sit 14th in the table, despite a comfortable set of fixtures to open the campaign. Saturday saw them beaten 2-0 at home to Sheffield United, the second promoted team they’ve lost to this season.
It’s left Silva precariously close to the edge, with his side booed off at Goodison Park on Saturday and some fans growing restless with the Portuguese manager. Indeed, anything but a positive result against Sheffield Wednesday in the Carabao Cup this evening could seal his fate as Everton manager.
Until that point, Silva is left assessing what’s gone wrong and Sousa’s departure is something that may be on his list. Every manager has someone they trust, and he certainly had a close and well-established relationship with Sousa that was clearly to theirs and Everton’s benefit. That’s something he’s unlikely to share with replacement Luis Boa Morte, at least not yet.
Perhaps the lack of that confidante, and perhaps a man who will question and challenge him, has had a more significant effect than first thought. That is speculation of course, but Silva would not be the first manager to suffer when an assistant departs for pastures new. Losing a right-hand man can be devastating to even the best of coaches.
And should Silva end up leaving Goodison Park this season, he may look back at Sousa’s decision to return home and break the partnership as one of the contributing factors. As with most decisions in football, it’s one from which, currently, only one party has ended up benefitting from.