Rafael Benitez says it was impossible to manage Everton the way he wanted because of his past with rivals Liverpool.
Benitez, who won the Champions League, FA Cup and UEFA Super Cup during his time at Anfield from 2004 to 2010, became Everton boss in July 2021 but was sacked six months later after struggling to improve results and to win over supporters.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports Newsthe Spaniard said he does not regret taking over at Goodison Park but admits he struggled to make certain decisions due to his ties to Everton’s Merseyside rivals.
“When Everton came up with the offer, I knew I would do my best and do everything I could to improve things,” he said. “I knew it could be difficult because I was at Liverpool, so maybe I couldn’t make some decisions. It was very clear to us at the beginning.”
“I had a meeting with a head of one of the departments and I asked him ‘do you think everything is okay?’ He said ‘yes, everything is perfect.’ I thought ‘600 million pounds spent, it can’t be perfect if the owners aren’t happy and the fans aren’t happy.’
“So I realized we had to change things inside, but I couldn’t do it right away because I was a former red and it could be seen as ‘oh, he came in to change our club’.
“At another club I would have made those decisions. I did it in the past because you know very clearly that’s the way to improve, but there at Everton I couldn’t do it.”
‘Gordon begins to fulfill potential’
A current Everton player who knows Benitez well is Anthony Gordon. The winger was linked with a transfer to Chelsea in the summer but the Toffees were adamant he was not for sale.
Benitez believes Gordon, who has scored two goals in seven Premier League games this season, is now starting to unleash his potential, but admits he initially had doubts about the 21-year-old.
“We played a friendly in Miami in pre-season and after 50 minutes he couldn’t run,” said Benitez.
“We knew he was a player with quality on the ball, could finish, pass and pace. But he couldn’t run. We had a chat with him after the game. It was hot, but he’s a young player.”
“I spoke to the coaches in the academy and my assistant and they said they weren’t sure. They knew he had the talent, but maybe it was his mentality.”
“We spent time with him, but the most important thing was to change his mindset and he really wanted to do it. He worked really hard, he improved his stamina and he got better and better because he had the potential.
“He needs to improve some parts of his game, he knows that. But I’m very happy to see him making progress because he’s a nice guy.”
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