One of the biggest Premier League stories of the summer has been Everton’s appointment of Rafael Benitez as their new manager, something which has annoyed parts of the Goodison Park faithful.
As a former manager of Liverpool, Benitez has never been popular amongst the blue half of the city, especially after a comment when he described Everton as a ‘small club’.
The Spaniard insists his remark was misinterpreted and seems determined to prove the doubters wrong again. He’s no stranger to having to win over supporters.
Many eyebrows were raised when Benitez was appointed interim Chelsea manager in 2012, a club that he had enjoyed a fierce rivalry with when manager of Liverpool.
He was only in charge at Stamford Bridge for one season, but he won the Europa League and secured a top-four finish to help them qualify for the following season’s Champions League.
The supporters of Real Madrid and Inter Milan weren’t overly enamoured with his appointment either, so the 61-year-old will believe he can change the minds of the Everton faithful.
If the Toffees fans can see past his red history and consider his honours list, they may feel he can get the Blues moving in the right direction, after a frustrating previous campaign.
Benitez has won 10 major trophies, including two La Liga titles, two Europa Leagues and the Champions League. Plus, he got Newcastle promoted back to the Premier League and was named European Coach of the Year in 2005.
Despite all the optimism under Carlo Ancelotti, Everton could only manage a 10th-place finish last term and now need someone to steady the ship – something Benitez is capable of doing.
The former Valencia and Napoli boss knows the Premier League inside out and has maintained a family home on Merseyside since his days in charge of the Reds. He should be able to hit the ground running and get the Toffees off to a sharp start to the season.
Benitez will also be buoyed by the fixture list, as Everton look to have a favourable first month to the 2021-22 Premier League season – with the Blues available at
100/1 to win the title.
The Goodison Park outfit will face three of last season’s bottom six in their first four matches, giving them a great chance to get off to a quick start.
After that there’s a trip to Elland Road to face Leeds a week later, before an away date at Brighton on August 28. Their first game in September is a home clash with Burnley.
A lot could depend, though, on the fan reaction to Benitez as to how long he will have to make his mark at Everton.
November’s first Merseyside Derby at Goodison will certainly be an interesting watch!
*All odds correct at time of writing