Ahead of his first competitive game in charge of Everton, manager Rafa Benitez spoke to the media during the pre-match press conference today at Finch Farm, with Southampton visiting Goodison Park tomorrow.
Benitez was first asked how he felt about starting his Toffees career with the return of fans to the stadium with the club having announced that tickets were sold out for the season opener.
“It’s very good for everyone. The fans are back after one year of not being able to watch their team, and for the manager it’s the same, you can see the players and fans and feel the atmosphere. Really good for everyone involved in the game.
“It’s always important to win at the beginning and at the end. For us it’s a great opportunity to be in front of our fans. The transfer window is still open and this is something we managers all complain about, but it is like it is and hopefully we can enjoy three points at home.”
The manager was then asked if he had the squad that he had wanted to start the season, especially with the news that long time target Denzel Dumfries had joined Inter Milan, and what work was left to do considering the financial restrictions placed on the club.
“If you ask the majority of the managers they want to improve and strengthen their squad. It’s still early, we have to wait a little bit until the end of the transfer window. I am happy with the way the players are training and how they are working together, hopefully we can replicate that on the pitch and win an official match.
“The reality is that a lot of clubs are spending some money, but the Financial Fair Play rules are there and we have to follow them and something we have to consider every time. We are still trying to strengthen the squad.
“I will not talk too much about players because we have to make sure the players that we have are good enough and that they are ready tomorrow and that’s it.”
Superstar James Rodriguez has been off training on his own at Finch Farm, though it hasn’t been clear if that is because he has chosen to stay away from the side or has been bansihed by the manager. Earlier reports have indicated that the club have informed his camp that he is free to pursue a transfer elsewhere during this transfer window, and speaking to his fans on his Twitch channel, James himself did not seem sure that he would stay at the Blues, even after the urging of his countryman Yerry Mina.
“I have had my conversation with him in the beginning and he knows my idea but obviously now he is not available so it is not an issue for tomorrow, but we will discuss every single player, with them, with their agents, and try to find the best solution for us and the club. Some players are in isolation and we have to manage that.
“Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison are available for tomorrow. There are five players in isolation. I will not name too many of them, because it’s better not to do it.”
Andre Gomes, Moise Kean and Jean-Philippe Gbamin missed the friendly at Manchester United last weekend, but only Gbamin was seen in training videos as of Thursday so we can assume Gomes and Kean are two of the five, with James Rodriguez now appearing to be added to that list.