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There are no pretences, no illusions. Rafa Benitez is far too experienced and pragmatic for that. His job at Everton is to deliver success…and quickly.
Asked if there had been any promises of patience and time to plot a route towards the trophies which will win the fans over, his answer is succinct. “To be fair in modern football that is quite difficult to get,” he says with a shrug.
In all the talks during what was a prolonged, even tortuous recruitment process, there was no talk of supporter unrest. Blues owner Farhad Moshiri and his chief sponsor and main backer Alisher Usmanov, emphasised only the need silverware.
Rafael Benitez is raring to go at Everton
(Image: Everton FC via Getty Images)
And for Benitez, the answer was simple. He can deliver it. He has to deliver it. “The question was, is it possible?” he said of his interviews with the owners.
“I would say yes. Will it be difficult? Yes, it will be difficult but you never know. The cup competitions, to be in Europe, depending on your belief, the way you work.
“So I don’t see why not, I don’t see why we can’t try to do our best in every competition if we can be sure we have a strong enough squad to do it. (In the interviews) they realised they could get an experienced manager who was competitive and can win things.”
How does Benitez do that though, a manager with such glittering palmares as Carlo Ancelotti was given significant money to spend, and scraped to 12th and then 10th in his two seasons at the club?
Again, Benitez was clear, if perhaps just a little optimistic, considering the noise around his appointment, and inevitable reaction from supporters if he doesn’t get off to a flying start.
Because of financial fair play restrictions, he will have to trade wisely, he admits, by offloading players on big salaries who he doesn’t want – with James Rodriguez, Fabian Delph, and perhaps even Richarlison and Andre Gomes possible departures.
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Then he must transform the mentality of the team, by removing the fear factor which too often seemed evident under Ancelotti at critical times of last season. Here, his philosophy is simple, his excitement at being back in the big time evident.
“You can see that you can compete in the Premier League against the best players and managers in the world and that is what I'm looking for. I like this challenge. I'm not afraid of anyone,” he says.
“I hope that our team is not afraid of anyone. That is the way to create this winning mentality that we are talking about. My job is to give them confidence, give them the tools so we can win any game, and it doesn't matter the name of the opponent.”
Despite the gaping hole in Everton’s finances in respect to FFP, there will be signings, with the manager in particular looking to strengthen in the wide areas to deliver more service to the undoubted goalscoring talents of Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
James Rodriguez could follow Carlo Ancelotti out of the exit door
(Image: Getty Images)
And that could be the end for both Richarlison and James. Benitez was pointed in his refusal to even discuss the future of the latter. “Everybody knows that this club has spent a lot of money in the last few years so that means you must respect Financial Fair Play.
“So you have to manage it in the best way possible. If you have players with big salaries that normally aren’t playing then you want to find a solution and this solution will mean you have money to spend on new players.
“We have to be ambitious and we have to manage the situation. It is very easy to see that we have a great centre-forward. He’s very good in the air, he can score goals. But we have to provide him with good crosses, good passes.
“So the objective is to add the players to improve. We can improve in these areas and, from the wide areas, the crosses will come. When we can do that, the team will be better.”