A banner threatening Everton’s manager-in-waiting Rafa Benitez if he completes his move to Goodison Park has been placed near his Merseyside home.
Images of the sinister message reading “we know where you live” were posted on social media on Monday. It prompted immediate condemnation from the overwhelming majority of Evertonians, appalled at the targeting of the 61-year-old coach and his family.
Benitez lives in Wirral with his wife and two daughters. The family are highly respected in the neighbourhood, where Benitez’s wife Montse has embraced and been embraced by the community for her philanthropy since moving from Spain in 2004.
An announcement confirming Benitez in post is imminent, the coach having verbally agreed a three-year deal and in the process of finalising his backroom team.
Benitez will be the first ex-Liverpool manager to subsequently move to Goodison Park. He knows he faces a mammoth challenge winning over a section of the Everton fanbase opposed to his arrival.
Hostile banners and graffiti have been seen at Goodison Park since it emerged that Benitez is on the verge of replacing Carlo Ancelotti, who left to join Real Madrid in June.
Another banner protesting against the appointment of Rafa Benitez. This banner is outside his family home where his wife and kids live. You may all have your opinions on his soon to be appointment but this is over the line and went too far pic.twitter.com/PkuXkCrYaW
— The Toffee Blues (@EvertonNewsFeed) June 28, 2021
Benitez’s connection to Liverpool, and comments made during the heat of battle in Merseyside derbies between 2004 and 2010, have made his candidacy for the job unpalatable to many Evertonians.
But the dissent of a section of the fanbase is by no means universal. Since Benitez’s name was first mooted, there has been plenty of open-mindedness about the possibility of the Spaniard making the switch, many fans wearying of the constant managerial changes and craving a proven coach with a CV of substance.
Since leaving Anfield, Benitez has managed Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli, Real Madrid, Newcastle United and, most recently, Dalian Professional of the Chinese Super League.
Benitez won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
The Everton board decided Benitez was the right candidate after a difficult recruitment process in which the first choice, ex-manager David Moyes, opted to stay at West Ham United, and the club had second thoughts about former Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo.
At one point Nuno thought the job was his, but that was always pending further discussions with other candidates.
After interviewing so well, Benitez has proved to be a more compelling option, and the last fortnight has been a matter of thrashing out terms.