Agent Rafa?

Mike Cheshire 01/07/2021 28comments  |  Jump to last
First of all, this piece may not be exactly what you were expecting from the title. I have a theory about the latest Everton managerial appointment and the majority of you are probably not going to like it.

I penned a piece at the beginning of June – Who is next for the Goodison Hotseat? – outlining what I thought would be the positive and negative points regarding each of the then linked names to fill our managerial vacancy since the abrupt departure of Carlo Ancelotti a few days prior. Rafa Benitez was on that list and was subsequently dismissed as pretty much unthinkable. But now, I wonder…

Since it became increasingly likely that Benitez would be appointed, I’ve been scratching my head as to why the leadership group of Everton Football Club would so carelessly dismiss such a strong, negative reaction from the paying customers, their loyal fanbase? The only answer I can come to is that they wouldn’t. They’ve seen the reaction, noted it, and determined it is worth the risk. They are not stinking wealthy for no reason.

Football is a strange beast in that you can repeatedly let down your customers and they will still hand over their money to you in ever-increasing amounts. This, from a strategic point of view, can be highly advantageous to businesses faced with unpalatable choices.

As we have long lamented, Everton is broken. We haven’t won a pot in damn near three decades. Our younger supporters have never known anything other than mediocrity and under-achievement. Hell, I’m 42 and I only remember the excitement of winning 1 FA Cup when I was 16!!

Perhaps it was time to take a chance and do the unthinkable? We’ve tried doing it “our way” and achieved the thick end of nothing; now it is time for something drastic.

Here is my theory: The leadership group has looked at things and decided that measures need to be taken in order to re-establish Everton as a force, significantly change the direction of the club or, at the very least, start that process for real. My theory is that Rafa Benitez has not been appointed despite his connection to Liverpool FC but, partly, because of it.

Whatever we may feel about our rivals from over the park, they win. We hate it, but they win. They do it annoyingly often. They are incredibly single-minded about what constitutes success on the pitch – lifting trophies.

Benitez, in my mind, has been brought in to instil some of that mentality into "plucky little Everton".

He is notoriously stubborn and has a mindset of "my way or the highway". Good! That’s what we need more of.

I want the days of us being seen as being great off the pitch and terrible on it to be behind us. I want opposition teams to come to Goodison Park and know before a ball is kicked that they’ll be lucky to get out of there with a point. I want us to be awful to play against. I want an open-top bus tour in the city displaying a trophy. I want us to have a winning mentality, to believe that when we go into the last five minutes 1-0 down, that we will find a way to get at least a goal.

I don’t like the thought of us replicating the mentality of Liverpool Football Club but, as much as you may hate them, you can’t argue that they haven’t been successful. Since Dave Watson lifted the FA Cup in 1995, they have lifted 13 trophies.

There are a great many things that I would never countenance adopting from our neighbours, and truly believe we are a better club in every single way that matters, except one: trophies.

Benitez knows that he is on a hiding to nothing taking the Everton job. If he was in any doubt about it, then the hideous bed sheet messages must’ve reminded him. He is financially secure and does not need to work but he lives and breathes football.

I can’t help thinking that he believes he can be the ruthless bastard required to sweep away the structures and inertia that have crippled our beloved club and become the ultimate rarity – a manager beloved of our entire city.

Agent Rafa? I hope so… but not how you think.

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Barry Rathbone
1 Posted 01/07/2021 at 12:02:54
Good piece, Mike.

Certainly possible our owners are in the "can't beat 'em join 'em" club I just think the protection of BMD is all that concerns which means guaranteeing Prem status. Something Benitez is well capable of.

I just can't see any other reason as Benitez is arguably at the foot of most Evertonians appointment list by some margin. And even allowing for the fact that with every passing utterance and footballing deed Moshiri appears as dull as dishwater he must surely see he's finished if this goes badly.

Mosh & Uzi = Hicks & Gilette mk2

Jerome Shields
2 Posted 01/07/2021 at 13:06:55
I just think he was brought in as a big name manager to replace Ancelotti and continue with the same plan. Continuing to improve existing players and bring in key players to lift the technical and tactical levels. Rather than being 'lassez-faire', as Lyndon correctly described Ancelotti's style of management, in the approach to players, Benitez will be demanding more effort and commitment. 'Competitiveness' as he calls it.

The real challenge is uniting a divided Everton and successfully implementing changes to do so. Even at the presentation of the new manager the conflicts of Liverpool vs Everton; Change or No Change; The Everton Way or Benitez's Way; Us and Them, were evident.

It's good that these differences are right out there from the start. It focuses Benitez on what his task is. I even thought him quite nervous. What's more, none of us expect things to be hunky dory. The owners are determined.

I don't expect Everton to ever play like Liverpool. I expect Everton to be more like Valencia, who did look like a good Everton side when he managed them. Liverpool were only at their very best when they played like Valencia. They could never keep it up.

The main concern I have is that Benitez is a short-term manager and Everton is a long-term project. Some of us think Everton is an eternal project… 'project' is Everton's middle name. Every new manager says 'project'. They never say, how you say in English. They know the word 'project', like they know Everton. Benitez said 'project'.

So now Benitez is near home on Merseyside, will he be determined to stay longer? That is probably the main reason he got the job, as much as any other reason, such is the football knowledge of Everton's owners.

Will it work? It's anyone's guess. Being Everton supporters, we are going to have front seats and I am sure are going to go through every emotion as a result. Give them plenty of emotion and let them force change.

One thing that occurred to me is, if Benitez is successful, he could out-do his own legendary status on Merseyside. Dream on…

Si Cooper
3 Posted 01/07/2021 at 13:58:32
Sorry, but I don't think this is a good article.

Everton are not ‘broken'. By and large, we have achieved what you would expect given our expenditure. People talk as if only a few clubs have our financial backing when we are still very much in with the also-rans. Breaking into the next level is the aim; we haven't done it yet but we live in hope.

Neither have Liverpool been anywhere near universally successful for the majority of nearly 3 decades, well certainly not compared to their expectations! Klopp is miles ahead in terms of the best of their Premier League managers.

And finally we come to Benítez. A pretty average manager for them. Does anyone remember that game in Istanbul? They could easily have lost it and then what would be his legacy? If 2 trophies in 6 seasons makes him a legend, then the term has been diluted.

The rest of it is pure speculation, but going for the most positive spin possible. How do we know this isn't just a good opportunity to line his pockets? His family may have loved their time on Merseyside but his kids must be close to leaving the nest, if they haven't already done so. Perhaps him and the missus have their eye on a nice villa on one of the Costas or the Balearics in few more years?

I'll give him some time but I will need to see some proper progress before I believe he's anything other than yesterday's man.

Kevin Prytherch
4 Posted 01/07/2021 at 14:11:13
I disagree that we have done it ‘our way' recently. All our success has come from appointing up-and-coming managers on the back of successful stints elsewhere. Catterick, Kendall, Royle and Moyes were all recent success stories, as was Martinez. I would say this is more akin to ‘our way' and, when we deviate from this, then we don't do as well.

Since Kendall Mk 1, we have appointed:
Harvey - worth a gamble…
Kendall Mk 2 - already past it
Mike Walker - flash in the pan
Royle - fits into our way and successful
Kendall Mk 3 - see Kendall Mk 2
Smith - too old and dated
Moyes - fits and successful
Martinez - fits and moderately successful
Koeman - Big name, not done a lot
Allardyce - dinosaur
Silva - off the back of abject failure
Ancelotti - dinosaur

We should be looking for the next big thing, not the big thing from 15 years ago.

I hope I'm proved wrong.

Mike Cheshire
5 Posted 01/07/2021 at 14:13:02
Si, if Everton aren't broken, how do you explain 26 years without a trophy? If that's due to a lack of expenditure, or failing to capitalise on the Premier League revenue streams etc, that's because the management structure is broken...

The RS may not have been universally successful over the last 30 years, as you put it, but I'd be a lot happier with a trophy every 2.3 years, as they have averaged, rather than 1 every 26.

I get your point about Istanbul but my point is exactly that; they didn't buckle at 3-0 down at half-time. They didn't know they were beaten, and that's the mentality we need to replicate if we're going to be serious contenders again. Same thing when they needed to score 4 past Barcelona a few years back. They were written off but didn't believe it themselves.

You may well be 100% correct about Rafa Benitez and his ambitions, intentions etc… though I hope you are not.

Steve Brown
6 Posted 01/07/2021 at 14:15:15
Moyes was very successful at not winning anything. Successful, honestly...
Si Cooper
7 Posted 01/07/2021 at 14:30:27
Mike, you are falling into the ages-old mental trap of thinking true success is common and we should automatically get a dollop of it every now and then just because we are a long-time resident in the top league. It just doesn't work that way; never has really… but the money disparity is now so significant that it is even more unlikely that the team with the 7th biggest wage bill will win anything.

We are definitely not ‘broken', unless you genuinely believe it is odds-on that we should be winning something every few years. It has got harder, not easier, to win things in the last 10 years.

So the RS didn't buckle in Istanbul? Whoop-de-doo! How much more do you think Benítez has to improve our side to compete with the likes of Citeh, the RS, Chelski, PSG, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barca, etc, etc, than he had to improve Houllier's side (4 trophies in 5 years)?

Brian Williams
8 Posted 01/07/2021 at 14:33:42
Si Cooper #3. By and large, we have achieved what you would expect given our expenditure.

Everton are the 6th highest net spend club over the last 10 years, with an average league placing of 9th, so I'd have to disagree that we've achieved what you'd expect though I would agree that "we" are unrealistic in our expectations of success.

Not a lot of clubs have won anything since we last did and the fact that we were once successful means sweet fuck-all these days.

Si Cooper
9 Posted 01/07/2021 at 14:42:18
Brian, do you get what ‘by and large' means?

We may be 6th but I bet we are closer to 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th than we are to 5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd.

Yes, we aren't reliable and the squad needs an overhaul, but we aren't ‘broken'. If our wage bill was the same and we were consistently finishing bottom-half, then I'd agree we were.

Oh, hang on. You've pulled the old switcheroo on me and gone for net spend rather than wage bill!!!

You old devil, you! I thought it was universally acknowledged on here that we'd often way overpaid for players and recouped a pittance since Farhad Moshiri took over?

Kevin Prytherch
10 Posted 01/07/2021 at 14:42:49
Steve - £20M net spend in 11 years and keeping us regularly in the Top 7. I would quantify that as successful.
Si Cooper
11 Posted 01/07/2021 at 15:00:17
Brian, sorry, I should have been more careful and not used ‘expenditure’. I did mean wage bill, which I believe is a better indicator of what should be expected.
Tom Harvey
12 Posted 01/07/2021 at 15:29:41
Hello Mike,

I get what you're saying and we do need a strong manager to point the way and make it clear to the players how to get there.

The thing is, I thought we had that with Ancelotti, he had a quite a ruthless reputation and haul of silverware, he simply gave up and ran off.

Basically, with what we have no manager can work miracles. For Miracles to happen Brands has to be allowed go and find a good few Ben Godfey types, this can't happen if Benitez does an "Ancelotti" and wants to be reunited with his old boys and I believe Moshiri will back him in this.

In Benitez's first club video he said he has a list of potential players he wants and will give it Brands, no mention from him of wanting to see the talent Brands might want to bring?

There's the biggest weakness in our setup, coaches should turn up and have a decent squad to work with, because the DoF has provided one, Brands has never had the opportunity to do this and will probably not get one now.

I'm uneasy about Benitez, forget the "small club" jibe, it's the fact he's done nothing in the past 7 years. He took over at Newcastle, they were 1 point from safety with 9 games to go and he took them down?

I'll give him until Chirstmas, that's long enough to see if he still "has it", if not I'll start booing with the many thousands that will have started well before me.

Rick Tarleton
13 Posted 01/07/2021 at 16:11:30
I'm ignoring his crass,idiotic comments and his Liverpool past. The reason why Benitez is wrong for Everton is obvious: he is yesterday's man.
This is true in two ways. Firstly, his best days were a decade or more ago and secondly his style of playing the game has been superseded by the higher tempo and more attacking style of Guardiola and Klopp.
He'll be like Ancelotti, too savvy to cock it up, but too cautious to advance us up the League. We could finish ninth or twelfth, but Europa League? Forget it. Champions' League? Not in the 2020s.
Benitez is in fact a timid choice, a name with an auspicious past and a dubious future.
Jerome Shields
14 Posted 01/07/2021 at 16:26:39
Kevin#4

I always thought Royale was a lost opportunity to continue Kendall's legacy. I remember after the FA Cup win he was faced with a abnormal amount of player contracts all ending at the same time. Not of his doing.
That prevented him holding a core squad and building to push Everton to the next level.

I would never classify him as the same Moyes. He had no glass ceiling. More money would have not made up the difference for Moyes to be able to move to the next level.

Bill Gall
15 Posted 01/07/2021 at 16:45:31
It is not winning trophies it is being at the standard to consistently be able to win them. We are not. The problem with Everton is we are in a mess, with the constant changing of managers who have their own styles and preferable players, who when they were let go it was left for the next manager to pick up the pieces. We have players who cost to much and cant sell, either we will loose to much money or no one wants them or they ask for to much during contract negotiations.
As soon as a new manager came in we all asked, i wonder who he will sign. A couple of new players came in the manager changed his tactics and we were back to square one.
I was surprised at the signing of Benitez and he was not my choice, but listening to him he seems more focused on building a future not instant success and this is what we need. Look at Klopp and Gaurdiolla at City, with established players then new signings how long it took them to win the league.
Other supporters will now more than I do but I believe Ancelotti and Brands had started to lower the average age in the under 23. And they were wanting to incorporate the same style of play as the first team to get coverage in case of injuries. We had the makings of a decent first team that could be improved with a couple of signings, what we did not have was a good squad.
We need this type of thinking at all levels of the playing side of the club but with more emphasis on the desire and fitness levels and hopefully Benitez will demand this instead of just expecting it.
Dale Self
16 Posted 01/07/2021 at 17:05:31
Good work Mike, we need to elevate the discussion around Rafa to be as fair to him as possible. This is somewhat like a player who comes with a heavy transfer fee that they did not negotiate. One early quibble is that we are not framing this as a fix for their lack of oversight. That being a motivation for doing something drastic is to my mind doubling down not being visionary.

Rafa has the mettle for this and we all recognize that. Where we differ is along the risk/reward spectrum. Yes, he can get some players in line we believe where others haven't due to a no nonsense approach that will embed his obvious knowledge of tactics into our squad. I'll give Rafa the benefit of the doubt here but one must admit he would be the perfect cover for some astute business people that are stuffed suits when it comes to football.

He can also have the potential to be a sub-Carlo that stays when he knows the game is up with Doshiri and ride us deeper into firmly accepted mediocrity. In this scenario I would have preferred someone who is a rebuilder but is younger in their trajectory like Rudy Garcia. If it was a short term intention from the start choosing Rafa as a fixer was not a low-risk move and this should concern us all. Unless you're willing to discount those plebian concerns about quality of football for the sake of getting into a decent stadium with quality shops all around that is.

And I haven't seen you like this Si, keep that going man.

Bill Fairfield
17 Posted 01/07/2021 at 18:00:33
Good positive post, Mike, amongst a minefield of negativity.
Danny O’Neill
18 Posted 01/07/2021 at 18:36:33
A good article and it aligns to the thought process of where the owners are in terms of pursuing a known name that has past success. Continuity of their plan.

You can argue we are broken, but I would disagree. I posted elsewhere, we are only one of 3 current top flight clubs not to have been relegated in my lifetime (born 1971). We haven't tasted second tier football since 1954. Compare that with Chelsea, Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester United, Wolves, Tottenham.

The list could go on, but we haven't been through what those supporters of those big clubs have been through. We are underachieving by our rightfully self-imposed high standards, but broken? No. Not for me, we are just lost and have needed, for far too long, leadership to point us back in the right direction and get us on track.

Moyes was not a success. He didn't win anything. He done what was necessary in the early years and I for one understood and appreciated that. But he couldn't and didn't break out of that mindset, whilst concurrently playing down the expectations of a generation who now accept that era as success. There were some good Moyes teams; 2009 sticks out for me. But two league titles, an FA Cup and a European Trophy was success for me, not an FA Cup Final appearance and some decent league positions, often after recovering from a dreadful start to the season.

With the stadium in flight and the manner in which they've gone for a similar replacement in the manager, whether we agree or not, the owner and his backer seem to have a plan and intent.

Phil Wood
19 Posted 01/07/2021 at 23:11:33
Nice one Mike.
The more I think about Rafa's appointment the more I am looking forward to the new season.
Makes a lot of sense. We do need shaking up.
He was most probably the strongest candidate available. Hopefully a great decision.
Onwards and Upwards.

Jem Bir
20 Posted 02/07/2021 at 12:40:26
Good post.

Moshri doesn't want to flush his money down the pan and, after a pretty extensive search, he's landed on Rafa. Not my first choice but, then again, I've not invested a large fortune in the club including a new Stadium.

I rather admire Rafa taking this – he's certainly got very large cajones.

Bill Hawker
21 Posted 02/07/2021 at 16:02:54
"I don’t like the thought of us replicating the mentality of Liverpool Football Club..."

I'd give both hands and both arms to have half the mentality of LFC on the pitch. Our mentality at the club has been, in my opinion, our biggest problem.

I understand that people may not like that statement but it simply comes down to winning. I've supported Everton since 1999-2000 so I haven't seen us win any silverware and I'd like to see that change as soon as possible.

So yes, I'd like to see Rafa instill a winning mentality in all corners of EFC.

Brian Murray
22 Posted 02/07/2021 at 16:15:17
Bill. He has the Midas touch. His teams don’t even have to score to get to a final ( shiesters ghost goal no where near over the line v Chelsea 2005 champ league. Now if he brings that type of luck
Dave Williams
23 Posted 03/07/2021 at 10:08:07
Sorry but to say Moyes was not a success is crazy. He worked miracles with that squad in 2004-5 and whilst he had peaked when he left us he was unlucky. In 2009 he was without three of his best players in the cup final- Jagielka who was then probably the best CB in the league,Yak and Arteta.
To get back to the point,Rafa won’t suffer fools. He will not play the slow players who don’t look like they can be bothered. James will be on his way for one, and I suspect Allan will join him. This guy is a fighter. The small club comment was only sour grapes because he needed a win and we defended to get a draw. How many times on these pages have we moaned about not having a captain or manager who will argue with officials and stick up for the club in interviews? Rafa will do this because he is stubborn, hates to lose and has a huge desire to get his own way in all matters football, including winning games.
Give him a chance- we will soon see!
Danny O’Neill
24 Posted 03/07/2021 at 11:56:11
Hands up, lazy and harsh throw away comment from me in retrospect Dave. I suppose I was talking in terms of being successful; winning something.

I wouldn't go with your rating of Jagielka, although he was good.

Everything else, I pretty much concur with. Two phases of the Moyes era for me. The longer and earlier part where I understood what he was doing and why. The last few years one of frustration at not moving the needle.

And yes, a manager who will stick up for his club and actual be f@*cking visibly fucking pissed if his team doesn't win.

Paul Birmingham
25 Posted 03/07/2021 at 13:02:28
Time to face the season and future and embrace what Everton is, despite every ones own beliefs and desires.

Benitez has got a lot to prove and more than any other manager, Everton could have hired.

Do the board see this as the driving force to try and bring consistency and success on the park?

Time will prove but to start this latest new management era, I’m hoping that there’s some new signings soon and some dead wood off loaded.

The past 18 months Everton got duped via Ancelotti, and despite the past with Benitez I believe he will be loyal and will be out to prove a point.

Some good jokes doing the rounds about Benitez and Unsworth discussing the canteen at Finch Farm.

Hope eternal.

Derek Thomas
26 Posted 04/07/2021 at 01:24:04
As we're stuck with him anyway, I hope you're right. Some arses (high-up ones too) need kicking. Some need kicking out completely.

We've all mostly said we need better mental and physical attitude and intensity. If he can lay a long-term foundation... and win a cup, we'll love him like we love Morrissey or Sheedy. If he's half as tough as the first and half as skillful as the latter... well who knows? There could be an Everton Knighthood for the Squire of Caldy.

But if he fucks up? Then it's tin-hat time... and then some, for the rs twat.

[The above is as fine a piece of 'Everton Fan Doublethink' as you'll see... sorry.]

Don Alexander
27 Posted 04/07/2021 at 03:05:07
Given that our serially failing owner/boardroom have appointed the Squire of Caldy (a miniscule haven of prosperity posing as a village with an excellent golf-course if you're interested) as an experienced manager with a knowledge of how to win things I've just researched the signings made by Liverpool in the six years he was manager there. Gulp, with the exception of Torres and Alonso they make our own "expert", Kenwright, look adequate!

So, whoever it was that decided to bring him onto us has a duty, I suggest, to put their money where Moshiri's mouth is and give him the cash to sign some proper players.

If he needs a clue (and who in Finch Farm doesn't?) we are bereft of pace all over the squad, and without it in this day and age you're fucked before kick-off.

I rely on my own eyes and the testimony last year of our very own (for now) DCL who described Godfrey and Branthwaite as the only two club players able to move quicker than him, and Lord knows DCL's no whippet.

That said, I expect the increasingly un-credible Moshiri to postulate Benetiz as just the latest "magician" he's appointed to make chronically slow (for sound physiological reasons that a science A-level student should detect at a medical) players the sort of signings the football elite world will crave.

Moshiri is the guy who's transformed the cheesy "An' If, Yer Know, Yer 'Istory" club song into the old Cole Porter song to now read, "It's delusional, it's delirious, it's defeated" as our anthem.

Anyone struggling to know who Cole Porter is can find ample evidence in the vast Everton museum by the way. He was famous when Dixie was.

Neil Tyrrell
28 Posted 04/07/2021 at 23:57:59
The notion of Benitez being ruthless is what I'm hanging my hopes on with his appointment. If I see 90 minutes of effort from everyone on the pitch that'd be a good start, and anyone not putting in a full shift being left out of the squad.

Regarding the wage bill discussion, how does Leicester's wages stack up against ours? Haven't got the answer but I bet ours is higher over the last few seasons and we haven't come close to winning anything. True that you have to spend to get quality players but it's not all about how much you spend, it's how you spend it too.


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