Rafa Benitez has told the Liverpool Echo how he had to convince Farhad Moshiri and the Everton hierarchy he still had the desire to be the club’s next manager after Carlo Ancelotti.
Ancelotti left Everton in the lurch and looking for a sixth head coach in five-years when he walked in June. The Italian felt the chance to return to Real Madrid was too good to refuse, after 18-months at Goodison Park.
Everton studied several candidates before hiring Benitez, who Moshiri told talkSPORT fitted the bill as he has a ‘winning mentality’ and is ‘obsessed with football’. But the Spaniard has now claimed the recruitment process was no easy ride amid some doubts at the club.
Everton ‘surprised’ Benitez with view on manager before appointment
Benitez says Everton ‘surprised’ him with the view some staff at Goodison Park held before he sold himself to them. A few of the Toffees’ decision-makers were quizzical about the 61-year-old’s desires for the job after his spell in China.
“I spoke to Mr Moshiri and then there was a big conference call with lots of people and then it was right,” Benitez said. “They wanted to ask questions and then, this was something which surprised me, they did not know me as a professional.
“They can read the press and say, ‘he is this and he is that’, but they think I have gone to China and then that is it. I went to China because I couldn’t compete here, and it was a great opportunity. It was a project with potential and money, but the pandemic changed everything. So coming here meant I could compete again. Owners with ambition.
“They didn’t know that when I was at Liverpool, I changed the academy. I have a degree in physical education, and I was working in schools so I can work with young players. I was working at the academy at Real Madrid and again in Dalian, improving young players.”
Is Benitez proving his doubters wrong?
Benitez left Chinese Super League outfit Dalian Pro and a £12m-a-year contract in January to be closer to his family. He spent 19-months at the Dalian Sports Centre following three-years with Newcastle United. Who The Guardian reported at the time had refused to grant Benitez greater control on transfers, mainly signing players aged over 25 and the wage bill.
Four of the five players Everton signed in Benitez’s first window at the helm, in contrast, were all over 30. Demarai Gray, who turned 25 in June – a month before moving to Merseyside – the only one under 30.
He could not spend vast resources on players as the Toffees had to deal with FFP concerns this summer. But Benitez has, presumably, begun to prove his doubters at Everton wrong with how the Toffees have started the season.
While the Blues’ Carabao Cup exit to QPR was disappointing, they sit fifth in the Premier League table. They have also only lost one of their seven top-flight fixtures, and drew 1-1 at Manchester United last time out.