The news was made official just a few minutes ago, with Everton confirming that Rafa Benitez will indeed be taking over as new manager despite the fans’ backlash that has surrounded the club since rumours of his appointment started doing the rounds.
Speaking to evertontv in his first official comments since joining the Blues, Benitez talked up the club’s bright future and how as a resident of Merseyside since his tenure at Liverpool he understands what the Toffees are all about.
“You can see the ambition is there. This club is growing. For me, it is about bringing the winning mentality, being competitive, so everything is in place on the pitch and off the pitch.
“I love the passion of the people behind the Club. I know the city, I know Scousers, I know what it means for every fan here to compete and to have the chance to win. To come to Everton is something that means a lot, for sure.
“You can see the ambition of the owner, of the Board, everybody wants to be better and to go to the new stadium with a massive boost.
“I like to compete. I like to win. I came from the academy at Real Madrid [as a young player and coach], and the winning mentality is already there.
“We [myself and my coaching staff] have won 13 titles because we have this mentality and I still want to win.
“And I have come to Everton because I liked the idea to be competitive again – and to have the chance to compete in every game, to compete against anyone.”
Everton struggled at home last season during the pandemic with no fans allowed in the stands, and there are legitimate fears that in the wake of Carlo Ancelotti’s departure, fans will react negatively to Benitez when supporters are allowed back into Goodison Park in the 2021-22 season.
However, the new manager insists he knows how to improve the squad the Blues have and win the fans over to his side.
“All my life has been working hard, trying to be successful, and I was lucky enough to be successful in different countries.
“I will try to do that with my experience, and the knowledge of the city, the fans and the Premier League.
“If you have very good players, it is about managing them. If you have to improve your players, you have to do that and at the same time bring some additions that will give the team more quality - but also the right mentality.
“You want players with the right character, so you can be sure everybody has the same idea to go onto the pitch to give everything. That is what the fans are expecting. We need the fans behind the team and I think they will be.”
Even if Evertonians are willing to forget that he was the Reds boss earlier this century, the comments he made at the time about the Blues being a ‘small club’ still rankle for many fans.
“I have been in Madrid, Naples, Valencia, Tenerife, Extremadura and Liverpool. Every single club I was there, I was fighting for them. If you analyse things in the context, what you are expecting from your manager is to fight for your club, and I will do that.
“I am here, I will fight for my club, I will try to win every single game, and it doesn’t matter who the opponents are, or the rivals. It is something you have to do, it is your nature, that you have to try to do your best.
“And why a lot of fans in a lot of these cities love me is because I was giving everything for them. If you analyse this in the context, then it is very clear I will do the same for Everton.”
The new manager confirmed that assistant coach and former player Duncan Ferguson would continue that role in his team.
“I think Duncan will be fundamental for us. He knows the Club, the knows the fans, he knows the mentality.
“He can work with us [the coaching staff]. We can learn from him and he can learn from us, with the experience we have in different countries and leagues.”
Questions have also been asked about how Benitez will work with Director of Football Marcel Brands, and what his experience is with relinquishing that kind of control regarding footballing operations.
“I worked in Spain for years with a Director of Football. Marcel is a professional. I am a professional. We will work together, we will keep talking, having meetings to talk about the Club’s idea, what we have to do in the future, about players.
“The communication between us has to be fluent and we will be talking with each other all the time. I am really pleased with that [the structure].
“I have already been in contact with him. I have the plan [for Everton’s summer transfer business].”
Nothing too surprising here in his opening comments, we can expect he’ll spend the next week bedding in before players who had the summer off start reporting to Finch Farm for preseason conditioning.