Money has ruined the Premier League - David Moyes in frank admission
David Moyes is talking about the tolerance level needed to be a football manager. “You have to take your poison,” he explains. “So whatever poison it is you will have a different level. I had a very good level at Everton. Some clubs you go to you have to take a bigger dose of it.
"So every coach nowadays has to decide what level of poison they are going to take – the job of being a manager now, with the money coming in, with the owners we have... like I say, every coach has to take his poison and it’s just a case of what level you can take.”
Moyes is back in his native Scotland. He is sitting in the lounge of the Dalmahoy Hotel, a country house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Outside it is raining gently as Moyes, his Real Sociedad squad and staff arrive in the middle of a three-match pre-season tour. The 52-year-old – in training top and shorts – is at the heart of proceedings as he busily oversees the team’s arrival before settling down for this interview.
Not once during the following hour does Moyes mention Manchester United or his ill-fated 10 months at the club after 11 years of success building Everton. But then there is no need to. It hurt, but Moyes has moved on. He joined La Real last November, steadied them, drew them clear of relegation, and is relishing the prospect of his first full season in charge in La Liga.
Moyes was always going to get back into management – “it is what I do and what I will keep doing until I feel differently,” he says – but knew he had to find the “right club” after the particularly virulent dose of poison he endured during his turbulent time at United.
“The job opportunity came up [after 11 years at Everton] that I couldn’t turn down,” he says. “But when I left I wanted to try and do something new. I wanted to try another culture, another style and it’s something I had always said I wanted to do. It’s always been there. Look, I might stay [at la Real] for five years, more, but I want to give myself a chance to do a full season.”
Moyes has that season left on his contract and has, this summer, turned down several Premier League jobs – he was strongly linked with West Ham United, Newcastle United and Sunderland – to stay in Spain. He has already become something of a trailblazer for British coaches there. Phil Neville, his former assistant at United, has joined Valencia, replacing another Brit, Ian Cathro, and Moyes is keen to get “one or two” British players to his club too.
He talks wistfully of the early 90s when he sat in front of the television watching Paul Gascoigne play in Serie A for Lazio.
Moyes lost out to Liverpool over striker Danny Ings this summer but the conversations he has had are positive, he says; players are not reluctant to work abroad.
“I’ve actually found them very open about it,” Moyes says. “Most are saying 'I want to give this a go’ but for various reasons it’s not happened yet. But hopefully it will, although Spanish clubs won’t bring British players in for the sake of it.”
Moyes says he rates Neville so highly that he can see him managing the national team.
“Phil Neville could be on the road to one day, maybe, becoming the England manager,” he says. “I know him closely. He was a great captain, a great leader. He’s had great experience. After he finished playing he came back to United then he chose to take a year out and had a chance to see how the media works – which is important – and he’s clever, enthusiastic and a good coach.”
Neville called Moyes to ask his opinion – and received a ringing endorsement of La Liga and life in Spain.
“What he’s doing now is to try and go and see what’s out there. It’s early for him yet but it’s a brave move. A good move,” Moyes says.
It was a good move, also, for Moyes to join Real Sociedad, although he admits he needed to be convinced by the club’s determined president Jokin Aperribay.
“When there was a chance of getting the job at first, to be honest, I thought 'it’s probably not for me’,” Moyes explains. “There were Premier League clubs interested but the more I saw the more I thought about it. There are a lot of similarities between La Real and Everton; a lot of it would fit. For me, also, it was the right place to coach again, to manage again, and also to improve myself, improve my CV.
“Could I work in Spain? Could I find another style? I’m working with some really good staff and whenever I go back to England I will have good contacts in Spain, I will have seen close-up Spanish players, who would be good to bring to the Premier League and what types of British players are good enough.”
So will he come back to England? “Of course,” Moyes says. “But when that is I don’t know. I just want to give Sociedad every opportunity and myself every opportunity to have a good team and a successful year.”
La Real, in the glorious Spanish city of San Sebastian, is already Moyes’s new 'people’s club’ and certainly the similarities between what he has found in the Basque Country and at Everton are uncanny.
The signs of success are also already there. Moyes recalls the famous victory last season against Barcelona but also the defeat away to Real Madrid, even though it eventually ended 4-1. “We went 1-0 up and it was a case of saying 'come on we can do this’. We lost in the end but it gave me the same kind of feeling I had when I was at Everton in the early days. We were never quite good enough but we were going to throw a few punches and see whether, now and again, we could knock them out. And sometimes we did.
“It took time at Everton to build a team so that when we did go to United or Arsenal or Liverpool we went with a good chance of getting a result. It’s a bit like that at Sociedad. You go to Barcelona or Real Madrid and you know you have little chance of getting a result but you have to find a way.”
Having now faced both Spanish giants, Moyes is in no doubt of their quality.
“The top two teams in Spain would be the top two teams in England,” he states. “The likes of Chelsea and Manchester City would compete for the top four in Spain. But I have to say the top half of La Liga is very, very strong. I’m not quite so sure of the bottom half. I don’t think it’s quite as good as the Premier League but that has more to do with the financial situation.”
As a coach in Spain he has felt the monetary might of the English game – and has some critical comments on it. And the waste.
“It’s nearly impossible for every league in the world to compete (financially with the Premier League), although it’s not impossible for certain individual clubs – Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid. But the money in England puts the managers under even more pressure and I think there is already proof that buying lots of players isn’t always the best way to do it.
“Some of it is media and fan-driven around the excitement of signings and because of that there were a lot of signings last year that might not have been good value and begged the question: could not a young player have progressed?”
Moyes has also been scathing about the quality of the Premier League – not through any sense of 'sour grapes’ but through a coach’s eye.
“I thought last season’s Premier League was as poor as I have seen and I think most people agree with that,” he says. “I just didn’t feel it was at the same level. The Premier League games I watched last season, I just didn’t think were special. And people watching in Spain thought that as well.
“Maybe it’s missing a bit of unpredictability. Maybe we are not seeing enough young British players given a chance – when you then have the chance to turn around and say 'hey, I’ve seen a good young player there, someone different, new’. Are we only interested in big names, big money? I’d like to think that the British audience is more educated than to believe that is always the answer.”
Moyes has always been evangelical about promoting young players and giving them that chance – at Everton he gave debuts to four 16-year-olds – and educating them in the right way. Even during his brief time at United he introduced Adnan Januzaj – who struggled to get a game last season after £59.7 million was spent on Angel di Maria.
It is another reason why La Real is a good fit for him. “The club’s philosophy is to develop the young players they have got,” Moyes says, and La Real’s aim is for 14 of a 21-man squad to be homegrown. “Rather than thinking 'can we buy’ – although we want to buy as well when we have to – they look first to the academy, to the B-team and I think that’s the right policy for all clubs, it’s the best way.”
Ten years ago Moyes was so concerned with the lack of young players coming through in British football that he asked if it was possible for Everton to field a B-team, as they do in Spain, in a lower league. He asked to enter the Conference.
“We tried to get one of the local stadiums [Widnes] to play in but we were told we would have to start right at the bottom and work our way through the system and that wasn’t really going to work,” Moyes explains.
It is only a small detail but 10 years ago? Since then there has been an intensified debate over the development of English players – or lack of – with many millions poured into the academy system and a Football Association Commission whose main proposals included... setting up B-teams. And yet here is a British manager who wanted to do this a decade ago.
“I do think the B-team system works,” Moyes says. “It’s not a brilliant standard but it’s competitive. There is promotion and relegation – Barcelona B got relegated this year. They have a bit more experience, are toughened up. So there is pressure on the boys. The games are written about and the highlights televised. The key is that it is competitive and that’s a big issue in England.
“I’m a great believer in the lower leagues, the pyramid system but there is mileage in having B-teams in England with young players playing competitively.
“After what I have seen in Spain, also, the younger players there do not have the same trappings that they do in England and there is a real desire to get to the highest level. They don’t get too much, too young in Spain.
“I bet also if you went to the chief executives of all the Premier League and asked them if they would all agree to only pay the young players x amount then they would all want to do it.
“Over the past 20 years we have tried everything in England – changing age groups, setting up academies, doing this and that – but do we really think it’s got any better? We are employing more people than ever in football, more money is spent, it’s bigger and bigger, but we still need to do the right things - find a better level of talent. We can’t wait and see if it happens. Maybe they are on the right path but what I am seeing at the moment (in England) would suggest not.”
Moyes will return, eventually. But first he wants to do two things: bring success to La Real. And learn Spanish. He admits the lessons, scheduled for 8pm, have been tough. By then he is tired from a full-on day coaching, managing, planning and building a club (he has introduced a new recruitment department).
“Maybe I need to try and hire someone to work at the club so we can squeeze in lessons at lunchtime,” Moyes says. “But I really want to give it a go to learn Spanish.” Just as he is giving it a go as a manager there.