Seamus Coleman’s career will always be a credit to him as he’s carried himself with such grace, but his legacy may linger as one of those ‘what-if’ stories.
In a generation where loyalty is overwritten by money and increasing marketability, Coleman’s commitment to Everton seems out of place. But the Donegal native’s footballing lifespan will reflect his own personality – one of gratitude and contentment.
While his Republic of Ireland exploits ensured he would go down as an all-time great given his ability and endurance at the highest level, Coleman’s actual personal ambitions were never truly considered, because he always seemed destined to be a one-club man in England.
This wasn’t down to perceived lack of talent nor due to lack of interest. At one point, it seemed more likely than not that Manchester United would swoop in for Everton’s pair of starting full-backs in Coleman and Leighton Baines.
But while neither move materialised, and ultimately both are still at the club, the Irishman’s willingness to go elsewhere always seemed lacking.
It begs the question – had he been a bit more selfish, would he have had the career trajectory of someone like Kyle Walker?
Those comparisons were tiring from the early origins of the debate, but the actual discussion had merit to it, and wasn’t just an example of Anglo-Irish relations seeping into football again.
As the Toffees supporters sing – ‘Sixty grand, sixty grand Seamus Coleman’. It’s unlikely that there will ever be a better deal in terms of value for money than Coleman was when signed from Sligo Rovers, but there’s also a hint that the price tag came with condescension.
If you’re costing less than £25 million these days, you’re seen as an afterthought. And while free transfers can work out, the wage bill they footed for their future captain for the early stages of his career ensured that he was, pound-for-pound, one of the best acquisitions ever made in the Premier League.
But here’s the thing: sometimes you need to be selfish.
Sometimes in football, you can’t be a shining beacon of light while everyone else around you delves into the dark arts. Coleman’s career now appears to be at a crossroads.
Despite being on the cover of the matchday programme and celebrating his tenth anniversary as an Evertonian, Coleman was dropped by Marco Silva.
His form hadn’t been the same, but the line of thought emanating from those in the know seems to be that he rushed his rehab in order to get back and help his team. That truly epitomises his selflessness, but he’ll be punished for it.
There wasn’t Nike-sponsored videos of him in the gym working back. There were no attention-seeking Instagram posts. He spared the time that would have cost to focus on the task at hand.
While he can be applauded for it and everyone comprehends how good a pro he is, there’s a sense that Coleman left an even bigger career behind him by simply staying loyal in an industry that demands you be more concerned about yourself.
The 30-year-old will retire an Irish legend, but given the emergence of Matt Doherty, he’s not even an automatic selection for the nation he captains anymore.
He will undoubtedly have no qualms about the way his footballing life went because he’s completely unassuming, but it does leave the question open for others to ask. Coleman, at various points in his Premier League lifespan, was the best full-back in the division.
But his career records won’t factor in character, nor will his honours list.