Rafa Benitez opens up on becoming Everton manager

Thursday, 14 October, 2021 38comments  |  Jump to last
Rafa Benitez talks about what made him move back from China, being appointed as the Everton boss, and inspiring his players to always be better.

» Read the full article at Liverpool Echo

Reader Comments (38)

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Danny O’Neill
1 Posted 14/10/2021 at 14:21:28
I don't normally go there often these days, but this article in the Red Echo is worth a read. I particularly like these comments from our manager:

"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"

"So we can coach players, we can improve players and we can go into the transfer market because we have some experience and we know a lot of people".

"We will make some mistakes like everyone - but we have experience in the Premier League, we have experience in Italy and Spain and we know people around the world - and we like to work with young players and improve them. I am not a normal manager because I am a coach."

"Some people say to finish eighth is a great target. That means nothing for me”

"But if you want to compete with a team that has potential, you have to compete to be winning something, not just maintaining expectations, you have to do something more."

I particularly like the 8th finish moment and not just managing expectation.
Kevin Molloy
2 Posted 14/10/2021 at 14:48:38
Is it true his daughter Claudia has just been appointed first-team coach, even though she has no experience of top-level football?

Sorry. I'm getting mixed up with the chap we had last season, don't mind me.

Michael Williams
3 Posted 14/10/2021 at 14:51:25
Neville Southall from the Echo:

'You can't put a price on it' – Neville Southall makes 'immense' Rafa Benitez claim and praises new signings

“I think people are pleasantly surprised, but still reserved to be fair. He's not been in the job that long so eventually he'll do well for us.

“He's changed the attitude of the players which is immense, I think.

“They're a talented bunch of players, perhaps their attitude at times wasn't great. But now we seem to have them all working together.

“It's been a delight for me to watch.”

Barry Hesketh
4 Posted 14/10/2021 at 14:51:54
Danny @1,

It's mostly what you would expect a new manager to say, but it does make a change to have one who isn't merely happy to maintain the status quo and allow the squad to drift from game to game, hoping to gather points along the way.

It seems that he is doing his utmost to get as much out of his players as is possible. He may end up achieving little more than Ancelotti and the other former managers achieved at Everton, this season, but I'd wager the squad will be in a better place as time progresses, regardless of Everton's finishing position in the table.

An extract from the article also shows the lack of in-depth knowledge of football, at the board level at Everton FC which may explain some of the missteps of the last few years.

"He also had to convince the Everton hierarchy that his ambition still burns as fiercely as it did when he was a young coach in Spain working with the Real Madrid youth team.

"I spoke to Mr Moshiri and then there was a big conference call with lots of people and then it was right," he added. "They wanted to ask questions and then, this was something which surprised me, they did not know me as a professional.

Michael Kenrick
5 Posted 14/10/2021 at 14:55:46
Rafa says some good things… but the Red Echo just can't resist. They have to ruin the whole piece by adding shite from ex-redshite characters that most Evertonians cannot stand. Why?
Alan J Thompson
6 Posted 14/10/2021 at 15:00:15
Quite some years ago on another site, an Evertonian who went under a character's name from Star Wars said that Everton should aim for the safety of 10th. My response to him was that aiming for 10th and just missing put you in a relegation fight but aiming to win the whole lot and just missing qualified you for European competition.

Never imagined I could agree with this man and still feel it is early days yet, but the attitude shown here can't be denied.

Barry Hesketh
7 Posted 14/10/2021 at 15:03:25
Michael @5,

At least they didn't include the torrent of dislike that the Red legend known as Jermaine Pennant showed for Benitez in some recent or regurgitated articles.

I think some of the Kopites read every line of every Everton-related story to ensure they can take a snipe when possible or complain to the Echo about the amount of coverage that EFC receives in their paper of choice.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
8 Posted 14/10/2021 at 20:39:33
I am surprised the Echo has so many Reds reading it.

London Evening Standard or Oslo Aftonposten I could understand unless it is all online these days.

Dale Self
9 Posted 14/10/2021 at 20:57:16
I suppose they don't call it the Echo for nothing. One has to read between the lines just about anywhere these days but they are rather special.
Tony Abrahams
10 Posted 14/10/2021 at 20:58:21
I'd guess that Kenwright might have been trying to put a spanner in the works regarding Benitez. Moshiri did say he was the standout manager out of everyone that they interviewed.
Ken Kneale
11 Posted 14/10/2021 at 21:07:13
It is a fair bet Tony - his spanners are in most other works over the last thirty years
Colin Glassar
12 Posted 14/10/2021 at 21:14:31
I’m keeping my judgement on Benitez to myself until the end of the season. Too many false starts have made me much more cautious about Everton managers.
Kieran Kinsella
13 Posted 14/10/2021 at 21:34:52

I am going to reserve judgement for three years. People were doing cart wheels over Mike Walker when we beat Swindon 6-2. After a year, people were jubilant with Roberto Martinez, Joe Royle was still being hailed after two years. So I think three is a safe number to go with before making a final ruling.

Danny O’Neill
14 Posted 15/10/2021 at 08:05:23
It's too early to judge or get carried away, but I agree with Barry, it's refreshing to have a manager who is totally detached from the emotional aspect (that's for you, I and Bill) and who shrugs off 8th place as failure and meaningless. That mentality will surely resonate amongst the squad. As well as not having depth of squad and enough good enough players, we have been seriously lacking belief and mentality in recent years.

Kieran; the Swindon 6-2 match. It was the one I took my youngest brother to for his first attendance in the Gwladys Street, aged 5. The poor lad fell asleep half way through the 2nd half!!

Lee Courtliff
15 Posted 15/10/2021 at 08:50:55
Good stuff from Rafa, accepting 8th as 'success' is ridiculous. Especially when you consider what Leicester did a few years ago and the more recent struggles of Arsenal and Spurs.

Even Leicester fans are having a go at Rogers after 2 successive 5th place finishes and an FA Cup win!! Unbelievable.

Outside the Top 4 of Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool, there is nothing to be afraid of. Absolutely no reason we can't finish above West Ham or anyone of that ilk.

European football should be our aim.

Paul McCoy
16 Posted 15/10/2021 at 09:21:37
I'll admit to hating the idea of Rafa as our manager at first, but the more I read interviews with him and from talking to my RS mates, I now think he's exactly what we need.

The man has a reputation for being incredibly demanding of his players and not taking any shit from club owners. Our players have had it easy in terms of effort expected of them since Moyes left and so far it looks like Rafa is reversing that trend.

Dave Williams
17 Posted 15/10/2021 at 09:40:02
Rafa talks a lot of sense in a very grounded and pragmatic way. We need to stay with him while he gets the chance to build the squad he needs.

We can see various players improving, the defence is looking more solid and the players' attitude and fitness is way better. We have some difficult games approaching but, if Dom and Richarlison are fully fit, we should provide the so-called big teams with a stern test.

Brian Harrison
18 Posted 15/10/2021 at 09:49:26
There is no doubt that Benitez has had a very good start to his tenure and those against his appointment (like me), and those who applauded the decision, I think can all agree that he has started well.

The big test is, as the song says, it's where you finish – not where you start, but who would have thought the impact that both his signings have made... and for so little outlay.

I read his article in the Echo where he was interviewed by David Prentice, and he made some interesting points. I know some fans picked up on his comments of some clubs he has managed were happy to finish between 8th and 14th. I am sure he will have been well aware of our finishing positions during Moshiri's reign and knew that would strike a chord with Everton fans.

I really hope we can maintain this form till the end of the season which would result in European football.

Danny O’Neill
19 Posted 15/10/2021 at 10:37:17
Health warning. This will be a lengthy one.

Slightly deviating, but linked, a very interesting read on The Athletic this morning for those who have a subscription. It focusses on Marcel Brands and the challenges he's had in trying to establish himself as Director of Football at Everton.

I think English football in particular struggles with this as we do like a "Mike Bassett" type of traditional manager and have owners and Chairman who just can't help themselves. I've said before, if you go for the DoF model, you have to buy into it fully, not half bake it. That means you effectively appoint a head coach underneath, but let the DoF be, well, the DoF. Some interesting points come out of the article.

He (Brands) was more aligned with Silva which, in a DoF context, makes sense to me. Their strategy was to build the club from the ground up. Foundations first, not the roof. Interesting that during that period, we bought Digne and Richarlison and apparently they wanted Doucoure then.

The club changed track and went for the big names in Ancelloti and now Benitez. Is it possible for a DoF to work under such "alpha" managers like this in the sense I understand the role? They want the control and will dictate who they want.

Apparently, Brands was zooming in on Dumfries, but the appointment of Benitez changed that.

It also talks about the Chairman still having significant influence in signings and the owner or his representatives (Kia Joorabchian) stepping in on occasion. That's no surprise or breaking news, as we've all seen it. But how can a DoF in the purist sense truly operate successfully under these interfering conditions? Let him do his job. The article actually quotes a source as saying Everton in particular are a club that you need to get an answer from 3 different people before signing a player. That said, apparently Kenwright was the key influencer in the Godfrey signing. That one might be hard for some to stomach.

What is interesting is hopefully what we will see materialise over the next few years. Brands has been promoting a "one club" ethos throughout the club. I've spoken before about how Klopp has installed a system from top to bottom, which makes the transition from youth to U23s to first-team much smoother.

According to the report, Brands has better connected the U18s to the U23s and has the coaches (Baines for example), moving between the different groups.

I hate to finish on a negative, but apparently Brands was against the excessive and irrational spending when he arrived. And was alarmed at the fact our U23s were on a wage bill that was equivalent to an English Championship team. Now, I haven't looked this up, but isn't the 2nd tier of English Football in the top 5 or 6 of world leagues in terms of revenue?

No wonder he's had his work cut out trimming the bills and cutting costs. I hope he is in it for the long term. I hope he is laying long-term foundations. I hope he is allowed to do his job.

The 'hope' word – I know!!!

Dave Abrahams
20 Posted 15/10/2021 at 11:24:23
I'm 100% with those optimistic fans who think we should be aiming to be playing European football next season but, with the wafer-thin squad at Benitez's disposal until January, I don't think it is feasible to expect a high finish, especially when injuries and suspensions kick in.

However, I expect some signings in January, loan and permanent, that will help us from then on. In the summer, we should be getting stronger with regards to more signings and Benitez's training and tactics beginning to really take over.

Danny O’Neill
21 Posted 15/10/2021 at 11:44:43
I'm a total blind optimist, Dave, and I'm going to Europe next season, so Everton had best make sure they're coming with me!

Back to your dose of reality. The threadbare squad thing has been an issue for several seasons now. Sadly, not necessarily in terms of numbers. We spent much well-discussed money assembling a large squad. We just haven't spent it on the right quality.

And regardless of opinion of the manager, on each turn of the merry-go-round we've been on, they have, by and large, been unified on one point. They only really trust about 14 of the playing squad we have.

Robert Tressell
22 Posted 15/10/2021 at 12:36:19
I expect us to be in the mix for a 6th-place finish. Since the Top 4 places are absolutely sewn up, that means we're up against Leicester, Spurs, Arsenal, Aston Villa and West Ham for those places.

The former 3 have better, deeper squads (but question marks about the management – with Rodgers possibly leaving for Newcastle and the other two underperforming). The latter 2 about the same as us with good management.

It's doable but, by rights, we should finish about 8th or 9th and anything above that is probably overperformance by Benitez.

I'm hoping the latter half of this season really sees the emergence of Gordon and Branthwaite in particular. That will help with the thin squad – along with one or two in January (Maitland-Niles in particular).

Dale Self
23 Posted 15/10/2021 at 16:52:52
I certainly defer to Robert's wisdom here but if the tandem of Allan and Doucoure stay healthy and Tom can cover against the lower half teams we could be in position to possibly reward Rafa in January. It has typically been a depressed market and we have a good face on with Brands saying we don't buy there but with the abundance of underused talent on some highly levered clubs' books there is the real possibility of us making a move and not getting the shake down treatment. Additionally, Gray and Townsend coming in with immediate impact gives some of those candidates a reason to believe they could resurrect their careers in blue.

On thing is for sure, I'm not an easy sell on what people say at pressers but Rafa rings the right tones. I think his word IS good and he looks to be hopeful in this situation. The setbacks previous to his arrival set us all back to our timid mindset of not believing until certain but this looks to be a rather solid and stable although thin turnaround.

Dave Abrahams
24 Posted 15/10/2021 at 19:06:51
The more games Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison miss, the more games Townsend and Gray will play, putting them at risk of burnout, and that will make the weak squad weaker.

With the midfield duo of Allan and Doucouré also being overplayed because there is no adequate replacements for them, it's going to be a long 2½ months until January!!

Kieran Kinsella
25 Posted 15/10/2021 at 19:43:38
Danny O'Neill

I read that article too. This section didn't surprise me:

"He was surprised by salaries earned by under-23 players; especially those he quickly assessed were unlikely to have a first team future at the club. Brands saved millions by off loading some of that overpaid group. Often terms are presented as take it or leave it. Brands uncompromising stance on one players departure this summer saved the club a half million payoff."

We hear a lot about "so and so is homegrown, so he was free" but this emphasizes that the waste is at all levels with Rhinosaur paying modest talents like they're made men.

Not to mention charity cases like Jose Baxter who got a contract just because "he was a blue" who'd wasted his talent, failed at Sheff Utd and found himself out of work. I see now we've followed that charity contract up by bringing him in to the coaching fold.

But there's hope: "Brands did win a crucial internal debate... his pick Joel Waldron got the job ahead of others pushed by key academy figures."

Who would the "key academy figures" be? Let me guess, Unsie? Was he advocating for a double act of Barry Horne and the surviving Chuckle Brother of some such malarky?

Danny O’Neill
26 Posted 15/10/2021 at 20:09:36
It is both an encouraging read Kieran in that it sounds like Brands is making headway in attempts to transform the structure.

But then it is concerning given how much quicker he could have moved had he been given the freedom and empowerment to properly clean out Finch Farm and re-structure it.

As you say, there seems to be some fitted wardrobes and permanent fixtures that can't or won't be moved due to interference from the top down.

Don Alexander
27 Posted 15/10/2021 at 22:25:13
Shock, horror!!

According to Benitez, Moshiri and his "inquisitors", "Wanted to ask questions and then, this was something which surprised me, they did not know me as a professional."

As if!

What a phony Benitez must be given that our chairman recently went on record boasting to us and everyone else that other clubs went to Everton to discover the secret of being a well run club!

Seems to me that, if we keep faith with this guy, those very credentials Kenwright has so proudly developed since the last century are in danger of seeming total bollocks, and what will Moshiri or whomever do then for guidance in his or their bid to aspire to Top 6, minimum, consistently?

Dale Self
28 Posted 15/10/2021 at 22:33:30
Don, I almost walked the plank of irony there. The English wit still nutmegs me from time to time.
Mike Gaynes
29 Posted 15/10/2021 at 23:56:48
Dave #24, then it's a good thing we had the foresight to arrange to rest all those irreplaceable players during international breaks and Cup competitions!

And, in all seriousness, I remain merely hopeful (as opposed to optimistic) that Gray and Townsend continue to play at their current levels. There is a reason that both were available for essentially nothing -- they both disappointed their previous employers over time.

Kieran Kinsella
30 Posted 16/10/2021 at 01:50:07
Mike Gaynes

I think your “hopeful” view is reasonable. I remember Warzycha, Jelavic and even Jo starting like a house on fire, then…

That being said, I'd argue Townsend suffered under Roy at Palace with his all-out defense approach. Townsend played because he put in a shift rather than because Roy allowed or expected him to attack. But hope springs eternal right? Paul Power on a free or nominal fee was similarly underwhelming as a target, had a decent start and then... became a legend.

Darren Hind
31 Posted 16/10/2021 at 05:52:21
Rafa has made a decent start. Gray and Townsend will prove to be vastly superior signings to the two Carlo used his legendary puling power to make.

Difficult to say where Rafa will finish as the Gods don't seem to be smiling down on him at the moment by depriving him of his strike force. I expect a few difficult periods but at least he plays to win and he will finish higher than Carlo... without the aid of a wand – forgone conclusion.

It's always a treat to get in early on Saturday Mornings. The irony of post 29 made me laugh out loud. Then post 30 just about finished me off.

Danny O’Neill
32 Posted 16/10/2021 at 06:58:08
Okay, the budget constraints forced us there, but both players have settled well and made an early impact. Long may it continue.

Pace, width and goals aside, both bring other different aspects to the squad.

In Townsend, experience and leadership. Someone the manager knows and has worked with before. That's not uncommon in football as we've seen many times before. If we are to believe the rumours, he wanted to bring in Longstaff with Davies going the other way??

With Gray, I'd be more in the optimistic camp Mike G. Electric pace and looks like he's enjoying his football. Also, still 2 or 3 seasons before he should be in his peak / prime. He is still young enough to be developed and improve. Could prove to be an absolute steal.

I'll go along with your hope. Let's hope he keeps the crowd singing that Demarai Gray Ole song all season!!

Combined with the form of Doucouré and with Godfrey to get back to form and fitness as well as the return of Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, I'm optimistic Mike. But (self-caveat), just like last season, the alarm bells are the thinness of the squad and having to scratch beyond our decent 14 or so players. But so far, the manager has managed it well.

Steve Brown
33 Posted 16/10/2021 at 08:09:37
Great posts Mike @ 29 and Kieran @ 30.

I always read your well-reasoned comments with interest.

Danny O’Neill
34 Posted 16/10/2021 at 08:26:52

What's your view on what happened to Jelavic? Was it the player being found out or the coaching? I know my opinion.

For half a season, we had an instinctive striker who found space in the box to stroke balls seamlessly into the net.

Then he turned into a Croatian Marcus Bent. Working hard, chasing corners flags and all that good stuff that some people seem to like. But the goals dried up because, funnily enough, our striker wasn't in or around the box!!

I'm not suggesting players shouldn't work hard, by the way!!

Don Alexander
35 Posted 16/10/2021 at 13:46:36
Jelavic seemed like a poor man's Jimmy Greaves to me in terms of demeanour and goal-scoring ability so if he wasn't scoring he was an unaffordable luxury for his team-mates, especially in someone's pragmatic eyes such as David Moyes.

Going back, Allan "Sniffer" Clarke was another goal-poacher who learned after a dose of Alf Ramsey in 1970 that he had to add way more to his game if he wanted more caps. To his credit, he did, becoming a far more involved player whilst still knocking the goals in.

I like to think Calvert-Lewin is going to improve his scoring prowess in the same way, for Everton.

Gerry Morrison
36 Posted 16/10/2021 at 19:57:22
Robert (22)

“The Top 4 places are absolutely sewn up” — Really?

I'll give you Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool, but Man Utd for 4th? I wouldn't put too much money on that.

Robert Tressell
37 Posted 16/10/2021 at 20:45:13
Gerry #36. Who else?

Man Utd have a very mediocre manager but an excellent squad. If another club makes the Top 4 this season it will take a lot of luck.

Gerry Morrison
38 Posted 16/10/2021 at 21:44:59
I’m dreaming that it will be us.

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