Now that the dust has finally settled after the whirlwind of rumours and discussion that followed the sudden departure of Carlo Ancelotti to Real Madrid, the former, and quite famous, Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has been awarded the Everton manager’s job by majority shareowner Farhad Moshiri.
While it remains to be seen how Director of Football Marcel Brands, who was reportedly not consulted too highly during the search for yet another manager, can work and shape the team with Benitez, all Evertonians must give the new boss the backing they would surely give any other coach appointed to the club.
Before going into the ins and outs of his appointment, it must be made perfectly clear that behaviour like what was witnessed as a threatening banner was placed near Benitez’s house on Merseyside is simply unacceptable and unbecoming of a Toffee, or indeed of any civilised person. There may be some harsh memories of Benitez from what might be considered a relative lifetime ago, yet he is Everton’s boss now, and beyond that he is a human being who deserves empathy and compassion, not threats and aggression. We must look optimistically forward towards a future that might include Benitez not only at Goodison Park, but also at Bramley-Moore Dock, too.
Yesterday’s Boss, or the Best Man for the Job?
While Benitez’s career hasn't been as glorious since his departure from Anfield in 2010, he has not been a terrible boss, either. After his six-month stint at Inter Milan, he has found himself across football and the world as well; from an interim role at Chelsea, to spells at Napoli, Real Madrid, Newcastle United and Dalian Professional in China. Apart from a Champions League and FA Cup victory on Merseyside, Benitez has also won the Europa League with Chelsea, two domestic cup trophies with Napoli as well as the Championship with Newcastle the year after they were relegated from the Premier League, alongside a whole host of other honours, trophies and accolades.
In short, while his appointment can be bemoaned, he certainly has the CV to manage nearly any team he wishes. His managerial record demonstrates that he is versatile, thoughtful and creative in how he puts his clubs together and plays them. There is a chance, of course, that he appears an old man amid a changing game like Jose Mourinho has while coaching in England, yet there might also be the chance that Benitez has continued to grow his understanding of tactics and situations, and has a real ambition to continue to prove himself in the Premier League once more.
Should he play a 4-2-3-1 at Everton as he has at previous stops of his coaching journey, Rafa will certainly have some tools to work with, as well as some funds to help form a team that might compete better this year than it did at the end of last season. He is, to be sure, not a prisoner of any system whatsoever.
The Spaniard is a football pragmatist who has already appraised the team and its triumphs and talents, shortcomings and weaknesses, and will do his best to accentuate them in ways that work best for his team, not his ego; if that should mean three at the back or even three at the front in more of a 4-3-3, then it will be managed without bias or doubt. Benitez is renowned as a man who breathes, eats and sleeps the game, often resorting to even sleeping at the training facilities as he prepares for games. With a dynamic attack and a more sturdy and consistent defence behind them, Everton might prove as much of a threat as they appeared for the first half of last campaign.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison are young players poised for the big-time and they will hopefully appreciate another elite manager coaching them. Should each buy into what the new boss wants from them, this could be the perfect situation for each to really take the next, concrete step in their developments. For DCL, it will likely come from growing into a more box-to-box style number nine, where as the Brazilian will have to demonstrate his ability to boss games with his talent and ambition on a consistent basis. Meanwhile, whether the likes of Allan and James Rodriguez remain, perhaps even Richarlison for that matter, will have to be determined, as will the future of talented and expensive youth Moise Kean.
Apart from the footballing credentials and tactics, it was surely the footballing stature of Benitez and his legacy that first made Moshiri’s business confidant Alisher Usmanov think of him as a possibility for Everton, before then reportedly moving on to sell Moshiri on the idea and selection too. Speaking to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich reportedly did not hurt either, as the Russian oligarch spoke glowingly of Rafa Benitez’s time at Stamford Bridge; these two individuals obviously played a massive part towards pushing Moshiri towards Rafa, as other big-name coaches were linked as well and did seem to be interested in the position of leading Everton, whether the Everton Board of Directors were interested in them is of course, another matter all together.
Benitez was an attractive option to be sure, and for more reasons than his keen mind. Moshiri ultimately chose and preferred a boss that wasn't only a solid tactical and practical manager, but someone who might entice big names to come to Goodison, while keeping most of his own talented youth from leaving; he is a boss who puts the team in front of individual players and will likely organize the entire team with this spirit in mind. We will now see if this works out the way Moshiri was, by others and eventually himself, convinced it would, as Everton enter the transfer window with a new coach, a fairly good season despite the tenth-placed finish in the league table, and a lot of ambition from both supporters and the players on the club themselves.
With his own wish list of players that will have to be accommodated with those Brands has been keeping track of, the team Everton come out with this season could be very different than the one that ended last term. It is a shame that we did not get a chance to see what Ancelotti could have done with another transfer window and more money, but it will be fascinating to see if and how Benitez can resurrect Everton in both England and Europe.
We will discuss transfer targets and the like in future pieces, yet while this is sorted out precious time is wasting away. Everton need to move quickly onto the acquisition of players for Benitez and his coaching staff, of which still includes Big Duncan Ferguson, to work into their preferred shapes and setups. While pre-season begins soon and the transfer window has long been upon us, it is nice to know that a coach has now been signed and that optimism can now reign on Merseyside once more. Whether Benitez was a masterstroke or an expensive mistake remains to be seen, yet he deserves time to make of this opportunity the most that he can, and there would be few, true Toffee supporters who would bemoan that, surely.