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Benitez explains Digne’s dig, El Ghazi transfer

Manager’s comments ahead of trip to bottom side Norwich City tomorrow

Hull City v Everton - Emirates FA Cup - Third Round - The MKM Stadium Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Everton are back in action this weekend with a trip away to the Premier League’s bottom side Norwich City. What has been a busy and eventful week of transfer activity came to an end with the addition of Aston Villa forward Anwar El Ghazi, with Toffees fullback Lucas Digne going the other way. However, in an emotional farewell message to the club’s fans, the fullback reserved a jab for the Toffees’ manager and during his press conference today, Rafa Benitez was asked about the comment.

“I am the manager, I take responsibility of my decisions. My decision is to think about the team, the future, the future of the club. I think we have to move forward and then think about that.

“My feeling is always the same, I try to do the best for the team. If you’re in a boat and someone is not rowing with the strength that you are expecting, then you have to make your decision.

“I think for the future, overall, it’s something that will hopefully be good in terms of new players coming in to provide competition and balance the squad. People will say this time or not is a good moment, it doesn’t matter. We have to do it and we have to move forward, thinking about what we can do in the next game and in the future to be stronger and more competitive.”

Benitez went on to add that the transfer fee for the Frenchman has helped fund the two incoming transfers of Vitaliy Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson.

“The reality is that when you have a player who was thinking about leaving, and then you have an offer, the main thing as a manager is to think about my responsibilities to make decisions which are best for the team and the club.

“We brought a couple of young, good, hungry players that I am sure will be good now - but I’m sure will be even better for the future.

“Overall I think it’s something that has to be, in the end, positive for the club when you are selling a player that will be 29 years old next year - and you’re bringing in a player of 22 and a player of 20 years old. I think we are balancing the squad, improving the economy and hopefully everything will be positive for us.”

Regarding the signing of El Ghazi and how his name came up in the transfer dealing, Benitez said he wanted to boost the forward ranks with Alex Iwobi away with Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations.

“It was part of the deal with Digne when we started the conversations. Thinking about the Covid situation, possible injuries, the Africa Cup Of Nations with Iwobi away - it was a possibility to bring in someone with quality that could give us different options.

“It’s a loan with an option so the player has to prove himself. I think it’s a win-win situation, if he’s doing well everyone will be happy. I think that’s a positive thing, we have more quality in the squad and more competition.”

There have been plenty of rumours that El Ghazi was pushed to Everton by his representative Kia Joorabchian, who is a close acquaintance of Farhad Moshiri from his Arsenal days.

“What I said was we needed a player in this area that could be capable to play in different positions. We did our research in terms of quality, personality - he’s a good lad and he wants to impress, that’s the main thing.

“I was talking with him and he told me his desire to come, to fight, to show his level - so I think it was a positive conversation. The only thing I can see is a positive for everyone.”

Can Evertonians expect more signings between now and the end of the window in just over a fortnight?

“We are always hoping to strengthen the squad. We are looking at each position for an opportunity. We will try to do the best for us. The reality also is that we’ve balanced the books, I think it’s quite positive.

“We are open to any good option, at the same time I’m pleased we’ve brought three players early in the transfer window. Now what we have to do is be sure that this competition between players allows us to win more games.

“We are open-minded. If we can bring in anyone else that can improve the team, we are also ready for that.”