Rafa Benitez: The right man to replace Ancelotti at Everton?

Varun Pai
By Varun Pai
7 Min Read

Everton’s ambitions of being a top club were clear when they appointed Carlo Ancelotti as head coach 18 months ago. However, they realised soon that ambitions alone are not the blueprint of a top club when Don Carlo left for Real Madrid two and a half weeks ago. Thus, Everton are now on the lookout for a manager who can complete the rebuild job Ancelotti started at Everton and somebody who will not be tempted by other clubs in Europe. A list of nearly 8 candidates has been finalised for the next head coach of the Merseyside club, with former Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez a heavy favourite to land the job. 

Would Benitez be a good replacement?

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The Spaniard who last managed Chinese club Dalian Professional has been without a job for the last 6 months and is angling a move back to the Premier League. 

For all the criticism, Benitez is one of the most tactically astute managers of the 21st century. His Valencia and Liverpool days are fondly remembered by the fans of those respective clubs, however, people often forget that this is a man who won the Europa League with Chelsea, averaged 2.25 points a game in his short stint as Real Madrid manager, and stabilised Newcastle United to a certain extent. 

If not a top manager, Benitez could surely be regarded as a manager who knows how to steady a ship and build a club. In fact, he is one of the very few managers who, albeit having an emphasis on a well-drilled defence, also churns out a lot of goals out of his side. 

Benitez is somebody who relies on using his player’s strengths rather than a system. The tactics are built according to the players at hand and the Spaniard has made a career out of this. Fernando Torres played his best football under Benitez, while Eden Hazard’s debut season was also under the Spaniard. 

He knows how to coach a defence, and he understands the different ways of attacking but what has lacked is a club that has complete faith in him and his ideology. The ego clash at Real Madrid ruined his chances of success in one of Europe’s top clubs, while the lack of funding at Newcastle meant that he could not progress any further than he already had by that time. 

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Everton, on the other hand, are an ambitious club that have the funds to bring in decent players, something they showed when they bought James Rodriguez, Allan, and Abdoulaye Doucoure last summer. Additionally, they already have a good defensive setup as Lucas Digne, Yerry Mina, and Ben Godfrey are brilliant defenders while Seamus Coleman, Mason Holgate, and Micheal Keane are solid defenders. 

Dominic Calvert Lewin and Richarlison are intelligent forwards, while Gylfi Gylfi Sigurðsson and James Rodriguez are able creators in midfield. There is a lot to work with here and Benitez has the know-how of coaching such clubs to break into, not just the top half of the table but also in the Top 6 or event the Top 4. Leicester City’s success in recent years has shown that with consistency and a good bunch of players, you can compete among the big boys and Everton are ambitious enough to do so. Moreover, the majority shareholder at Everton, Farhad Moshiri, remains is a fan of Rafa Benitez and is leading the charge to appoint the Spaniard.

It is a move that will suffice all parties, however, the fans still have some vented anger at the former Liverpool coach who said that Everton were a ‘small club’ back in 2007. However, Benitez apologised for his comments back in 2019, when he clarified his statement and expressed that he still shares connections in Merseyside. 

“I made a mistake when I said it was a small club,” he told Monday Night Football. “What I wanted to say was they are a small team because in this game I remember they had one chance.

“Liverpool fans were happy, and the Evertonians were upset. But I didn’t want to say they were a small club. I wanted to say they were a small team.

“Some Evertonians they come to me and say about what I did for the city, we have the charity, and all these things, so I have a very good connection with the city, not just the Liverpool fans.”

When will Everton appoint their new manager?

While the replacement to Ancelotti has not been chosen yet, Everton want to wrap that issue up before the end of the month as they want the new head coach to have a full pre-season with the players. 

Besides Benitez, the list of candidates also includes current Belgium manager Roberto Martinez and ex-Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santos while there are also outside shouts for Ancelotti’s assistant and former Everton man Duncan Ferguson, ex-Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, and Ligue 1 title-winning manager Christophe Galtier. 

It is a list of able candidates, however, Benitez remains the most experienced of the bunch, and it looks like the Spaniard might be appointed in charge of the Merseyside club very soon. 

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