Former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland full-back Denis Irwin has told the Irish Times that the time has come for compatriot Seamus Coleman to leave Everton for a bigger club.
Coleman, 26, joined the Toffees from Sligo Rovers in 2009 and, after breaking into the line-up during the 2010-11 campaign, has since gone on to make 167 total appearances for the club.
Having established himself as one of the Premier League’s top defenders, rumours of a potential switch to United have been rampant in recent months, with the likes of the Guardian reporting a bid of around £20 million to have been in the offing this winter.
While a move failed to materialise before the transfer deadline, Louis van Gaal’s need for a natural right-back is expected to see the club renew their interest in the summer, when Irwin believes the 25-times capped international should look for a fresh challenge.
The former Red Devil has stressed that Old Trafford, where he himself embarked on a 529-game career between 1990 and 2002, doesn’t have to be his destination, but insists that, at his stage of his career, his fellow Irishman needs to join a European powerhouse.
“Seamus has progressed in every year since he came across, particularly in the last two years,” said Irwin. “For him to be world class, however, and this is no disrespect to Everton, he probably has to move to a club that plays regularly in Europe.
“That is no disrespect to him either but it is the next stage of his progression because he has gone from Sligo, to Everton, on loan to Blackpool and has got better at Everton year on year.
“He has years of experience under his belt now. He is at a good age. At 25, 26, you are starting to get comfortable as a footballer. Most things have happened to you on a football field and you can deal with them.”
This season has been far form Coleman’s best at Goodison Park, with Roberto Martinez’s side struggling to replicate last term’s form which saw them earn a remarkable fifth-place league finish.
Sitting 12th in the table after 24 games, Irwin nevertheless believes that Coleman has done more than enough to earn a high-profile move come the summer.
“The last two years have seen him linked to top-four clubs,” he added. “They play a very attacking style at Everton which suits him because he is fantastic going forward. He played wing at one stage.
“If he keeps going of course he is going to be linked with teams in the top echelons of football.”