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Everton have so far failed in an attempt to bring back Roberto Martinez as their next manager following the sacking of Rafael Benitez.
As revealed by Telegraph Sport, the Royal Belgian Football Association has turned down an approach from the Premier League club with Everton now considering other candidates.
The case of Wayne Rooney, the Derby County manager and a former Everton player, of course, is being pushed hard and he has his backers on the club’s board but Everton are also looking at a number of other options.
Martinez is understood to have been offered the job but had also told the Belgian FA that he did not want to leave before the end of his contract which is due to expire at the conclusion of the World Cup in late December.
Martinez is likely to step down after that tournament in any case having made it clear that he eventually intends to return to club management. But he does not want to walk out on Belgium and in previous discussions with clubs who have considered hiring him he has suggested retaining the role with the national team.
Belgium are ranked the number one nation according to Fifa and will go into the tournament as one of the favourites. The country’s FA are therefore uncomfortable with the idea of their coach basically going part-time at this stage and it is further complicated because Martinez is also the association’s technical director.
Nevertheless, the 48-year-old Spaniard had hoped an agreement could be reached for him to combine taking over at Everton with remaining as the head coach of the Belgium national team. So far the Belgians have not agreed to that.
It is understood that Everton’s preference was to bring back Martinez initially as an interim manager until the end of this season before making a final assessment on a permanent appointment. In theory that was possible with Belgium only having a friendly away to Slovenia schedule for the March international window.
After that, though, there are a series of Nations League games in June against Holland, Poland and Wales but the Premier League season would have finished by then.
The Belgian FA received a formal approach from Everton on Sunday and discussions took place on Monday morning with hopes that an agreement could be reached.
There is precedent for combining the roles with Guus Hiddink having remained as coach of the Russian national team in 2009 while also becoming the interim manager at Chelsea. However, that was not in a tournament year and Hiddink was always only going to stay at Stamford Bridge on a temporary basis and left after winning the FA Cup.
Martinez was previously in charge at Everton from 2013-16 before becoming the first manager to be sacked by Farhad Moshiri after the Iranian businessman acquired a majority shareholding. He has always retained strong support in the boardroom at Goodison Park and was under consideration last summer before Benitez was appointed.
It remains to be seen whether the talks can be resurrected amid suggestions that the Belgians would be in line for £2million in compensation should Martinez walk out. Although the figure would easily be paid by Everton it is unlikely that Martinez would take that step.
Significantly Everton did not make an announcement on a caretaker appointment following the sacking of Benitez after a dismal run of winning just one of the last 13 league games. His dismissal followed the shocking 2-1 defeat away to Norwich City on Sunday.
Everton face Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa on Saturday and the likelihood is assistant Duncan Ferguson will take charge of that game although he is not believed to currently be in the running to take over on a permanent basis.
Everton are aware that former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is readily available while the candidacy of Niko Kovac, who was recently harshly sacked by Monaco having previously coached Bayern Munich, is also being pushed and the Croat is keen to work in the Premier League.
Meanwhile, Everton have announced a clear-out of Benitez’s backroom staff. Francisco de Miguel Moreno, Antonio Gomez, Jamie Harley and Cristian Fernandez have all left the club’s “first-team technical staff with immediate effect”. All four joined the club following Benitez’s appointment with De Miguel Moreno working as his assistant alongside first-team coach and senior analyst Gomez, head of sport science Harley and first-team rehabilitation fitness coach Fernandez. It leaves Ferguson and goalkeeping coach Mike Kelly to currently provide the experience in Everton’s backroom staff and further highlights the need for the club to make a quick decision on who the next manager will be.