Heading into the 2017/18 season, Everton fans were engulfed in optimism about what lay ahead.
The Toffees finished 7th the season before meaning they had a European adventure awaiting them in the new campaign.
In the dugout was a man with a real European pedigree in Ronald Koeman, who had led them to the Europa League in his first season at Goodison Park.
Life was good.
Everton have long thought of themselves as the ‘best of the rest’ outside the top-six in the Premier League, and with good reason.
Only Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have won more top-flight league titles than the Blues.
Under Koeman and going into 2017/18, this was the time to push on.
Long gone were the David Moyes days, where Everton fought above their standing for years but couldn’t progress due to a lack of financial resource.
This time was different, they were back in Europe and actually had money. Money to burn.
Farhad Moshiri had completed a deal to part-own the club in February 2016 and he was about to release the type of funds that would put Everton alongside the big-hitters of the league in the spending table.
The appointment of Steve Walsh as director of football seemed smart.
A man with a solid reputation after unearthing two gems in N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez for Leicester City.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, just because you finally have money for the first time doesn’t make you any good at spending it.
The departure of top goalscorer Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United for £77m left a hole to fill upfront.
Everton got so many of the decisions that summer horribly wrong.
£68m was spent on Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klaassen, while the return of the prodigal son Wayne Rooney placed three players in one position while a proper number nine to replace Lukaku wasn’t sourced.
Overall, over £140m was spent on nine players during , and only really Jordan Pickford can be claimed as being a success, and thats up for debate.
Everton were languishing in the relegation zone when Koeman was sacked following a 5-2 defeat at home to Arsenal in October 2017.
The club had to face both Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Tottenham to open the season which is a mammoth task to take on, but there can be no doubt the poor recruitment was unforgivable.
Koeman’s fate may have been sealed by the lack of Lukaku replacement, according to his brother and assistant manager at Goodison Park, Erwin.
“The club did a lot to get a good replacement,” Erwin Koeman told the Liverpool Echo.
“Ronald hoped that Giroud was coming and I think he would have been a good player for Everton. That was the solution but he did not come.”
Walsh would go on to share some of the blame for the failure, losing his job in May 2018 to be replaced by the current incumbent in the director of football position – Marcel Brands.
However, the former Leicester chief scout believed things were so close to turning out very, very different.
“While I was at Everton, I offered them Andrew Robertson and Harry Maguire deals, when they were at Hull, and it was worth £20m for the pair but Everton didn’t take them,” he said to The Athletic.
“Erling Haaland, I had him and his Dad at the club with a deal done for £3.4m, but the club wouldn’t back me.”
It’s taken a long time for Everton to recover from Koeman’s catastrophic second season in charge, with the club having two different managers since in Sam Allardyce and Marco Silva.
The future looks promising once again now Carlo Ancelotti is in charge, but all eyes will be on their next recruitment drive.
They cannot afford, in more ways than one, to make the same mistake.
Everton were on the brink of something with Koeman and it never worked out.
Now it’s Ancelotti’s turn to break Everton into the elite.