On Wednesday, one of the most controversial managerial moves in recent Premier League history took place, as Everton appointed former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez as their new head coach. The former Valencia coach has signed a three-year deal with the Toffees.
Why is it controversial?
The Everton hierarchy, including majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, have made a brave decision to bring in Benitez, which has split the Toffees fanbase. Benitez is of course not just a former Liverpool boss, but he is a Liverpool boss who won the Champions League with the club in 2005. He is regarded by many Reds fans as a hero.
However, it is not just the fact that the Spaniard once managed their rivals that has got the Toffees backs up. Benitez during his time with their rivals he was scathing about Everton, at one point calling them ‘a small club’. More recently he has played down that remark, stating that he meant small team because of their style of play at the time.
To say that Benitez’s appointment is strange would be an understatement. It could be argued that the feeling is likely shared by fans of both clubs on Merseyside.
Benitez has had success building teams
The negative of the appointment is out of the way. Remove the links with Liverpool and that ill-advised statement about the Toffees as a club and the appointment may just make sense. Benitez is not like predecessor Carlo Ancelotti who usually goes into readymade success.
The 61-year-old has a reputation for building teams, which is exactly what Everton needs at the moment. The team has been drifting ever since the exit of David Moyes to Manchester United in 2013. The last through appointments of head coaches have been popular ones with the fans. They promised so much, yet delivered so little in tangible terms.
Benitez is a football man. By all accounts, he lives, breathes and eats football. He is a highly professional head coach, who has an eye for detail. One thing he is that Ancelotti isn’t is that he is a coach. Everton for the final months of last season looked uncoached. They went from challenging for the European spots to finishing the campaign in a disappointing tenth-place.
The new Toffees boss was reportedly desperate for the job. He is certainly brave to take the job against such a backlash over his appointment. The Spaniard is accustomed to that sort of thing, as he experienced a similar situation at Chelsea, although maybe not to the same degree.
One thing that needs to be noted is that Benitez didn’t need to take the job. He could have probably retired with the money he has made throughout his managerial career. If he has taken the Everton job, it means that he is determined to make a success of it.
A long wait for success
Everton seem to have been in mediocrity for so long now. It has been 26 years since the last trophy and the fans are starting to get impatient. This is the Toffees longest run without a trophy in the history of the club. It would be ironic if an ex-Liverpool boss came in and ended that long wait for silverware.
In truth, this appointment could go either way. Farhad Moshiri and the rest of the club’s hierarchy has made a big gamble with this appointment. For Moshiri this could be what defined his tenure as Everton’s majority shareholder. If things go wrong early in his spell, then fans will be quick to criticise Benitez and Moshiri may lose the fans.
The next few months at Everton will be fascinating. The Toffees have gone through so many head coaches in recent years without much success. Maybe the least popular appointment amongst the fans could prove to be the biggest surprise success.
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Will Rafa Benitez be successful at Everton?