Sunday 17 December 2017

Rafael Benitez interested in Everton role but 50:50 on remaining at relegated Newcastle

Newcastle United Manager Rafael Benitez. Photo: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Newcastle United Manager Rafael Benitez. Photo: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

Ian Herbert

Rafael Benitez would consider the prospect of succeeding Roberto Martinez as Everton manager if approached, though he was on Thursday night weighing up whether to led Newcastle United’s attempts to return to the Premier League.

The Goodison Park position would be an ideal fit for the Spaniard, whose wife and daughters are still based on Merseyside, though the Independent understands he is unconvinced that the club’s chairman Bill Kenwright and new major shareholder Farha Moshiri would want a former Liverpool manager to succeed 42-year-old Martinez, who was sacked after a run of one win in ten.

Frank de Boer, whose departure from Ajax was announced on Thursday after his agent said at the weekend he would “love to join a club like Everton” is the current front runner.

Benitez feels that Everton’s supporters may not set their faces against his appointment and considers the Everton job to be a fine opportunity for whoever takes it, with a very strong group of players in Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku and James McCarthy who are ready-made contenders for European football. But he knows there is sensitivity attached, owing to the rivalry which existed between him and David Moyes when the two were Merseyside managers between 2004 and 2010.

It is the Newcastle post which Benitez is now giving deep consideration to. He is thought to be 50:50 about whether to heed the pleas of the relegated club’s fans and continue at the helm. His predicament demonstrates the profound effect on him that the Newcastle-supporting public on Tyneside has had. Benitez was initially minded to exercise a break clause and leave St James Park if the club did not stay up: a view he still held a month ago.

Ever since his appointment, Newcastle have been urging Benitez to stay regardless of the outcome of the relegation fight. But he will need assurances that the club are willing to invest in players with the skills to mount a Championship promotion campaign, if he is to stay. Benitez is under no illusions about the size of the task ahead, with a reworking of the squad necessary. He knows that many of the players currently at his disposal not suited to a Championship campaign.

The relative proximity of Newcastle of Benitez’s family, who he has been seeing once a week compared with their intermittent spells together during his three years spent managing Napoli and Real Madrid, is a major consideration. Other job recent offers have come from Turkey and China.

Despite Newcastle’s relegation, Benitez’s reputation has been enhanced by his two months on Tyneside where, after turning the side around, he has seen the side go undefeated in the last five games. His success as a Champions League winning manager has stemmed from a shrewd ability to get the best from players. It has been the same at Newcastle.

Everton supporters’ mounting frustration with Martinez stems from the sense that their fine group of players is not being put to optimum use. Supporters will remember him describing Everton as “a small club” after the sides had played out a 0-0 draw in February 2007.

Benitez has since said that the description related to Everton’s lack of ambition in that specific game defending

"I wanted to say they were a small team in the way that they were playing - deep, defensively and doing nothing in attack. That was my idea. When you play against a top side you know they will have more possession and they will be in more control and you have to find one or two counterattacks,” he told The Independent in 2011.

Mark Hughes, Ronald Koeman, Manuel Pellegrini – who is thought to want another Premier League job – Moyes, as well as de Boer, all feature ahead of Benitez in the odds for the vacant Everton position.

Fans had been planning to protest about Martinez at the club's scheduled Player of the Year dinner in Liverpool last night. Their calls for Martinez's dismissal have now been heard, though the event, at St George’s Hall, was cancelled.

Benitez expects Newcastle to conclude their representations to him within a week, with their intentions regarding squad investment the over-riding factor for him. Should they fail to entice him to stay, Hull City boss Steve Bruce is thought to head a shortlist of potential replacements, with his own track-record in Championship promotion with that club. Moyes was also interested in the Newcastle job before Benitez was appointed.

Independent News Service

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