Brendan Rodgers was adamant his career had not gone into reverse. "People might say this is a step down but they don't know this club," he said during his unveiling at Celtic.
Certainly the Scottish champions, with their rich history and vast fanbase, should be no one's idea of a low-pressure placement. A Northern Irish Catholic like Rodgers can testify to that more than most. This is not a small club. But the shift in fortunes, both financial and footballing, between the English Premier League and its Scottish counterpart over the last two decades has been stark.
The temptation is to ask where Celtic stand in the firmament now, and to wonder where a successful spell there would position Rodgers for future employment. After all, the last Celtic manager to then secure another job was Neil Lennon, who went to Bolton, left them on the brink of relegation to League One and lost out to Rodgers for the Parkhead post this month. So, seemingly, did David Moyes.
Moyes has the feel of the new Alan Curbishley, forever discussed as a candidate for jobs but never actually getting them. He talked to Aston Villa. He appeared under consideration by Newcastle. He would go back to Everton. But, six months after leaving Real Sociedad, he remains unemployed.
Many in Wales thought Rodgers would return to Swansea -- which, without doubt, would have been interpreted as a backwards move -- but he insisted it was his decision not to and his former club extended Francesco Guidolin's contract instead. It left Celtic as his best bet; perhaps the only real one, too.
Both Moyes and Rodgers have found themselves part of a modern phenomenon, of coaches used to operating at the upper end of the Premier League but who are now displaced by the managerial galacticos and who find their options limited. Roberto Martinez may be a third member of their newly formed band, men who seemed squeezed out by proven trophy winners and exotic arrivals from abroad. The Spaniard could require a break after his increasingly fraught spell at Everton, but when he seeks employment again, he may encounter similar problems.
Perceptions have changed quickly. Little more than two years ago, Rodgers' Liverpool were top of the Premier League and Martinez's Everton fourth while Moyes was contracted as manager of Manchester United, arguably the world's biggest club, until 2019. For different reasons, their futures seemed secure. Not now.
But England's emergence as a dream destination for elite coaches has altered the framework. Liverpool are a case in point: in 2012, they had a choice between Rodgers and Martinez, managers of Swansea and Wigan Athletic respectively, neither then with a top 10 Premier League finish to his name. In 2015, they could hire Jurgen Klopp, the double Bundesliga winner and Champions League finalist.
Next season, arguably England's five biggest clubs -- Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United -- will boast five of the most decorated managers working today. Between them, Klopp, Arsene Wenger, Antonio Conte, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have won the Premier League six times, the Bundesliga five, Serie A five, La Liga four and the Champions League four. Between them, Rodgers, Martinez and Moyes have one FA Cup and one Community Shield.
Their accomplishments -- Liverpool's first title charge for five years (courtesy of Rodgers), Everton's highest Premier League points tally (under Martinez) and their seven consecutive top-eight finishes (during Moyes' long reign) -- pale into insignificance in comparison. If Rodgers' success at Swansea had come four years later, it would still have drawn rave reviews, but probably not a job offer from a top club. Not when the silverware addicts were available and interested.
So the logical assumption may be that these are ideal candidates for the next five clubs, ones with top 10 aspirations and budgets. Except that this does not seem to the case. Moyes spurned West Ham's advances last summer, a decision taken out of loyalty to Sociedad that he may well regret. He has expressed a willingness to return to Everton but Ronald Koeman appears their preferred choice and Frank de Boer, winner of four Dutch titles, may be the likeliest appointment.
And the upwardly mobile members of the Premier League's middle class have prospered by hiring managers who have excelled abroad. Leicester City's title winner Claudio Ranieri is the most extreme example, his Tottenham challenger Mauricio Pochettino another case in point. Yet Southampton, with Koeman, and West Ham, with Slaven Bilic, have benefited from finding intelligent, charismatic Anglophiles with a wide range of experience across Europe.
Those with a grounding in foreign leagues have found management a transferable skill when they arrive in England; those such as Moyes who have made the reverse journey have not. Language is undoubtedly an issue and, despite his spell in La Liga, Moyes does not speak Spanish as well as Rodgers or, obviously, Martinez. Their preferred brand of football has obvious Spanish influences too, but Martinez is married to a Scot and has not worked in his homeland since 1995. Appointing him there may require a leap of faith.
And those whose coaching experience lies solely in Britain are understandably unfashionable abroad. The complaint has long been that English managers are offered too few opportunities at the game's upper reaches; now a Scot, a Northern Irishman and a Spaniard find themselves cast as auxiliary Englishman, the ersatz-natives struggling to get a foothold in their own backyard. Remarkably, only one club finished in the top 10 with a manager who has not worked abroad: Stoke's Mark Hughes is very much the exception. Those lower down seem to be looking to Serie A. Swansea's appointment of Guidolin and Watford's choice of Walter Mazzarri could, in part, be attributed to the Ranieri factor.
Those who want to manage in England have to cast their sights ever lower. Rafa Benitez will make an incongruous sight in the Championship next season; the Newcastle manager may be joined by a second Champions League winner there should Villa appoint Roberto Di Matteo.
Lower-league clubs may benefit from the greater competition for top-flight jobs. A Scottish one already has. Two years ago, Celtic ended up with Ronny Deila because no one of any pedigree seemed to want to manage them. This time around, Rodgers, Moyes and Lennon seemed joined in contention by Paul Lambert and Steve Clarke. As Premier League positions get more prestigious, securing them becomes more of a competition in itself. The managerial game has changed.