David Moyes may have felt ready for a bigger job, but given it’s less than a year since Real Sociedad was competing in Champions League, the former Everton boss’s move to La Real represents an opportunity. Perhaps reaching this year’s top four is a pipe dream, given how well teams like Valencia and Sevilla are playing, but in a Champions League situation that Atlético Madrid’s improvement may be making a perpetual battle for fourth, La Real Sociedad is one of a number of clubs that can take advantage of alternating responsibilities. European football one year. Only La Liga the next. Once a team falls out of Champions League, it become much easier to navigate a return.
With Moyes, however, that may be easier said than done. Between his time and Everton and Manchester United, the 51-year-old Scotsman only finished in England’s top four once. Perhaps more remarkably, he took United out of that hallowed ground, guiding the Red Devils to their lowest finish in the long, storied history of the Premier League (only 21 years). Even at Everton, Moyes’s overall talent level may have been closer to England’s elites than Sociedad’s will be to Spain’s big three.
Yet we’ve seen what Diego Simeone’s done with Atleti. We saw Manuel Pellegrini have consistent success, be it at Villarreal, Real Madrid, or Málaga. Rafa Benítez won a actual silverware with a non-Barça, non-Real team, while Unai Emery is again finding moderate success in Spain, this time with Sevilla.
It’s not impossible for a coach to make waves in Spain, even if the ripples may not be as big as Benítez’s or Simeone’s. The question is whether Moyes — somebody whose style, as infused in his team, says nothing but British, British, British (even if he has been reported as being curious happenings on the continent) — is the right fit for La Liga, let alone La Real.
Regardless, this is going to be a pleasure to watch, from the awkward fashion choices the Scotsman makes in a more temperate climate, to the awkward orange tan that will inevitably emerge from exposure to this thing Spanairds call “sol.” San Sebastián is going to change Moyes, as well as his reputation. Perhaps just as much as Manchester United was, albeit in an entirely different way, this will be a career-defining decision.