As the transfer window reached its climax, Seamus Coleman’s name appeared in more and more transfer headlines.
A move to Manchester United has been touted for years now with the full-back’s odds slashed over a move to Old Trafford in the dying embers of the transfer window on Tuesday night.
The rumours never developed into reality with Coleman himself confirming that no contact had been made from Jose Mourinho’s side. Despite this recurring link, stranger transfers have happened and it was hard to rule this one out as it made a lot of sense. Antonio Valencia has been phenomenal for United this season but Coleman would represent an out-and-out right full-back of the highest calibre: a perfect fit for the Red Devils.
If the rumours had come true, Coleman would have left Goodison Park one game shy of his 200th appearance for the Liverpool club, but the Irishman did make it to 200 against Stoke, scoring in the process. In the age of the attacking full-back, Coleman has epitomised the potential for defenders to score from open play.
This impressive career may have seemed a long way off when a skinny Killybegs man joined Everton in 2009. He was spotted by Sligo Rovers three years previously playing at centre-half for his local club St. Catherine’s. Three impressive seasons followed with Sligo before David Moyes made him a Toffees player.
His Everton career began with an explosive loan to Blackpool where he provided the final push to their Premier League promotion. Used as a right winger by Ian Holloway, Coleman made an immediate impression in England.
Exactly eight years on, Coleman is a mainstay in this Everton side and one of their most prized assets. Having been alternated between the wing and full-back by Moyes and in his rare appearances for ex-Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni, he solidified his place as a right-back with a license to get forward. In 2014 he was recognised as the Premier League’s best right-back with a PFA Team of the Year selection following an outstanding season under Roberto Martinez.
However, many have wondered how the 28-year-old is still an Everton player. In essence, Everton are a huge club and in the past several seasons have become an attractive team to watch, partly because of Coleman’s swashbuckling runs. Unfortunately they have never been able to make the next step into the Champions League, a level that Coleman is surely ready for. He is an international captain with experience of an international tournament under his belt and Everton have probably taken him to the best level they will achieve.
In the past, Coleman has been linked with teams like Bayern Munich and PSG, not to mention some of the Premier League’s regular Champions League contingent. Despite these rumours he has stuck to his job at Everton showing nothing but the utmost professionalism when others’ performances would drop because of distraction. In a month where Dimitri Payet sulked his way out of West Ham, Coleman ignored speculation to score goals from defence and further improve his game.
Many Ireland fans are craving a Champions League hero to cheer on. Although Eoghan O’Connell, Anthony Stokes and Cillian Sheridan all whet their appetite in the last several seasons, none are Irish regulars. Out of the entire Ireland squad, Coleman seems the most capable of making the step up. He is certainly better than some of the full-backs on show in Europe’s elite competition and his quality could undoubtedly be used by the top teams.
However, for the moment Coleman’s performances must still be delighting Irish fans ahead of the crunch World Cup qualifying game at home to Wales next month. The momentum is behind Coleman now and he will hope to carry this into March’s tie.
He is a player more concerned about becoming the best he can for him and his teammates rather than his profile. These values may be something more attainable at Everton rather than a bigger club with different expectations. Years ago, Irish fans wished away Robbie Keane from Spurs to a Champions League club; with his move to Liverpool eventually not working out. Coleman is the same age Keane was when he made that move. Spurs ended up a Champions League side and Keane moved to the MLS via another stint in north London.
Although Keane did enjoy success in the MLS, and indeed with Ireland, Irish fans will hope should Coleman make the move to another club that it’s at the right time and that it’s the right move. At the moment he is still thriving and improving along with Everton. He is also an automatic starter, which is a rarity among Irish players in the Premier League.
With 28 no longer being the football equivalent of a pensioner, Coleman has time to either guide Everton to better things or to secure a move elsewhere. At present the first option seems the wiser one.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena