Rafael Benitez is close to joining Everton, his fourth club in the Premier League

Credit: Nick Potts

The Champions League-winning former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is close to taking over at Everton with the contract now being finalised and an announcement expected in the next week.

Benitez, 61, who left Liverpool 11 years ago this month, has been in long negotiations with the Everton ownership, principally Farhad Moshiri and has agreed in principle to take the job although nothing can be considered a certainty until the contract has been signed. The long search for a replacement for Carlo Ancelotti has presented problems for the club with no agreement reached with former Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Nuno Espirito Santo and other options discussed and passed over.

The appointment of Benitez will represent the first time that a manager has been in charge of both Merseyside clubs since the 1890s. The Irish-born William Edward Barclay was the first manager of Everton in 1888 and then fulfilled the same role at the newly formed Liverpool in 1892 after Everton left the Anfield site and moved to a new home at Goodison Park. The choice of Benitez has prompted some critical remarks on bedsheets outside Goodison but opinions vary across the fanbase.

It would be the 12th appointment of Benitez’s club career, and his fourth in the Premier League after Liverpool, Chelsea – where he was a successful interim manager – and most recently Newcastle United from 2016 to 2019. He has kept his family home on the Wirral and his children have grown up mainly in Britain. Along with Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace, Everton have faced the prospect of planning for pre-season without a new manager and the onus has been on an appointment who can come in with experience and take charge of the challenge facing the club.

Although Ancelotti resigned to take over at Real Madrid there was no major effort on Everton’s part to keep him with great disappointment at the second half of last season.