Watford's Marco Silva flavour of the month but is he right for Everton?
Watford manager Marco Silva could hardly have been more evasive when asked on Sunday about continuing rumours that he wants to join Everton. "It is not fair to doubt commitment," he said after the 2-0 defeat of West Ham. Yet all he would commit to was "to plan the next training session."
Having taken that session this week, Silva remains manager at Vicarage Road and Watford are giving little away beyond a suggestion before the weekend that he will be held to his two-year contract, which has no break clause.
If Silva does depart before 2019, one source close to the club told ESPN FC that Watford want £12 million compensation for his services. For reference, Everton paid £5m to lure Ronald Koeman from Southampton in June 2016.
The matter is at such an impasse that rumours of former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal being approached caused a run on bookmakers' odds, but even in the unlikely event of the 66-year-old Dutchman taking on the job, it would be a short-term fix to a problem that began almost a month ago with Koeman's sacking.
Silva, 40, is reportedly the top choice of majority Everton owner Farhad Moshiri and seen as a man for the long haul in spite of the fact that jumping ship to Everton would be a third job in 11 months -- after he joined Hull in January, was relegated, and then exercised a break clause to head south to Watford in May.
Loyalty, though, cuts both ways in football and Watford are a club who have parted company with their last three managers after the last three seasons. The first of them, Slavisa Jokanovic, did not have his contract renewed despite gaining promotion from the Championship at the end of the 2014-15 season; successors Quique Sanchez Flores and Walter Mazzarri were both given a single campaign.
Silva may be flavour of the month, but his record so far bears close resemblance to his predecessors at Vicarage Road. Watford have 18 points after 12 games, the same as Mazzarri collected at the same point last season. In 2015-16, Sanchez Flores' team had 16. But good starts were not enough to prevent both being ushered through the exit door.
One key difference between Silva and those before him is the style of football Watford now play. Both Mazzarri and Sanchez Flores opted for a robust, physical approach in which the ball was pushed forward to the strikers as quickly as possible. Silva's team are also direct but Watford make far more use of midfield, with a passing style encouraged.
Visitors to Vicarage Road this season have usually found themselves entertained and only the top six have scored more than Watford's 19 goals -- though they have also conceded 21. In an age where fans demand entertaining football due to the high premiums they pay to attend matches, Silva has provided just that and his name was sung from the stands at the weekend in a plea to persuade him to stay.
After a dalliance with Sam Allardyce that never got to the point of formal negotiations, Everton seek a progressive manager, someone who might bring the best from the club's continuing commitment to youth players.
At Hull, Harry Maguire became a defensive leader under Silva before he was cashed in to Leicester for £17m, while 20-year-old Richarlison's immediate impact at Watford after arriving from Fluminense in Brazil, as well as the recent form of the 22-year-old Will Hughes, offers further testament to Silva's coaching qualities.
In his short time in England, Silva has gained a reputation for improving players through rigorous training. At Hull he held sessions every day of the week, and Tom Cleverley has benefitted in Hertfordshire, having been surplus to requirements at Everton. The 28-year-old's revival also reminds of the jumpstart Silva gave Sam Clucas, previously a Football League player, at Hull before the midfielder was sold to Swansea in the summer in a deal worth £16.5m.
If that all makes Silva look a dream ticket, then Hull's relegation last season might count against him. Going into their penultimate home game of the season against already relegated Sunderland, Hull had hauled themselves out of the relegation zone -- having been bottom when Silva arrived on Jan. 5 -- only to lose 2-0.
That awful defeat, in which the players lacked discipline, did not deter Watford's owners, the Pozzo family, from turning to Silva though. And one glance at the squad available to Silva on Humberside points to there being no disgrace in failing to prevent the drop; getting close was achievement in itself.
An impressive Watford tenure so far suggests the Pozzos made the correct decision. Everton's next move is awaited.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.