Rafael Benítez vows to ‘walk the walk’ at Everton but silences speak volumes

Rafael Benítez may know a near-Sisyphean task is before him at Everton. The impression was difficult to escape during a debut media conference from a man whose status as a former Liverpool manager has fans disgruntled. It required minimal decoding to glean there is scant finance available to strengthen and that Farhad Moshiri’s fifth hire since 2016 has been given zero assurances that in the absence of a convincing start the owner will not start thinking of No 6.

Between bon mots about “walking the walk” not “talking the talk” and an insistence that “if I am happy it means we’re winning and so the fans will be” was a blaring silence where Benítez might have piped up about funds, patience from Moshiri and confidence that James Rodríguez will remain at the club.

Last season, under Carlo Ancelotti, Everton finished 10th, eight points from the final Champions League place, con un -1 goal difference. Benítez’s job is to close the gap to fourth and win trophies, yet the 61-year-old could not even cite a veto or final say on signings and would not be drawn on whether the PSV Eindhoven captain, Denzel Dumfries, or the Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly are targets.

Instead came the first of several mentions of tight purse strings. “When you go to any club the manager always has an important opinion," él dijo. "[Pero] you have to work in the context of having a director of football, the board, and financial restrictions. I am pleased that this club is getting bigger and I’m happy with the idea that we can compete and I will fight for that. How do you say, ‘Talk the talk and walk the walk’? I prefer to walk the walk and see if we can do well.”

As well as leading Liverpool for six years that featured Champions League and FA Cup triumphs and a second-place finish, the Spaniard’s CV shows two La Liga titles with Valencia, the Europa League for Chelsea, a Coppa Italia at Napoli and stints at seven other clubs.

If this pedigree indicates that Moshiri has chosen wisely, a further clue as to the challenge facing Benítez is that none of Ancelotti (18 meses), Marco Silva (17), Sam Allardyce (six) and Ronald Koeman (16) managed more than a year and a half under Everton’s owner. His tenure begins with six games that alternate home and away against Southampton, Leeds, Brighton, Burnley, Aston Villa and Norwich before the 2 October trip to Manchester United. This is as reasonable a run as Benítez could ask for, which is fortunate considering his response when asked whether time would be granted should results disappoint and supporters demand his dismissal.

“In modern football that’s quite difficult to get, but I can say that from day one they have been very supportive – the board is trying to help," él dijo. “Now we have to do what every season we have to do. If you win everybody will be happy, and you’ll have more support; if not you have to carry on and be sure you get results and then it will be easier to enjoy the time.”

Is there pressure to win straight away? “In football you cannot guarantee anything but I am quite confident that the team is strong enough to compete," él dijo. “Then if you can compete you can win.”

Moshiri’s transfer spend since taking over in February 2016 is more than £500m and though about half of this has been clawed back in sales the spendthrift days are over. “We have good communication between everyone working here and [en] managing the financial restrictions you have to,” Benítez said.

On Rodríguez, OMS signed for two years last September after leaving Real Madrid, él dijo: “It’s better to talk about the team, ideas, than individuals. It is just a question of some time and you will see how the team is going on, and each player will know what I am thinking about his future.”

Given Benítez’s loquacity regarding Dominic Calvert-Lewin, a hunch says no tears will be shed if the Colombian leaves. “We have a great centre-forward who can score goals so we have to provide him with crosses, good passes, assists – so we are trying to improve in these areas,” the manager said. “After that we have to improve other areas but this depends a lot on the financial fair play.

“The club spent a lot in the last years – the financial fair play is there and you have to respect it. If you have players [not in the team] with big salaries you want to find a solution [by selling] to have more money. I have to match the ambition of the owners. Is it possible to win trophies? sí. But it is difficult.”

Fan ire at Benítez’s comment while at Liverpool that Everton are a “small club” may have helped to prompt someone to leave a sinister banner near his home that read: “We know where you live. Don’t sign”. This was summarily dismissed by many right-thinking supporters and Benítez is clear it did not put him off taking the post.

“I was convinced even [when we] started talking," él dijo. “It’s not something I’m scared of, it’s the opposite. I want to win.” This is his desire but practice will tell all.




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