Rafa Benitez is set to be appointed Everton manager. Gulp.
Despite both Liverpool and Everton fans being used as a focus group for the possibility – and the results suggesting it would be an overwhelmingly bad idea – the Spaniard is set to take the reins from Carlo Ancelotti.
He’s agreed a three-year deal and by the time you’re reading this, it might already be confirmed.
Farhad Moshiri knows how to lure a big name, alright…
If England were not still in the Euros, it would be far bigger news – but on Merseyside, it’s of more importance than it is to the Croydon-Boxpark-beer-explosion brigade.
As Rob Gutmann of the Anfield Wrap declared when the initial idea was flouted a fortnight back, you can’t just do that, Rafa, and expect everything to stay the same.
You can't be a Liverpool legend – as a manager – and then go on to manage them. Just doesn't happen. If you do, fair play, but you get erased. Simple as.
— Robert G (@RobGutmann) June 16, 2021
What’s he thinking?!
Well, it’s Rafa, isn’t it…?
Rarely has a manager I can remember been able to disconnect himself emotionally from football and the players he manages.
Benitez sees footballers as chess-pieces in a tactical struggle. He uses them, dictates to them and arranges them according to his victory plan. He’s always been this way. It’s why Steven Gerrard, our legendary former midfielder who thrived on the emotion, feeling and moment of football, never formed a close bond with arguably his most important manager.
There’s countless tales of Rafa being ruthless to the point of nasty when making football decisions. He controls players’ sleep, diet and training to the point of absurdity. Mavericks have always struggled under his lead. He once ditched Pako Ayesteran, his assistant at Liverpool, on a whim, after years of success together.
But here’s the thing. While Rafa never formed personal relationships with players and staff, he 100% did with fans. He is rightly regarded as a Liverpool legend, and joining Everton when you’re a Liverpool legend is weird.
Despite being a cut-throat football manager from Madrid, Benitez simply got Liverpool – the city and the people. (We had presumed he had a preference for the red half, but how wrong we were!)
When managing Newcastle, Benitez famously laid a personal tribute to the 96 outside Hillsborough, and always showed himself to be a class above at the various memorial services he has attended ever since first arriving in England in 2004.
In many ways, though, it’s his love for Merseyside, its culture and his family ties in the area that are swaying his bold decision.
Maybe in some ways, we should be flattered?
Rafa describes his daughters, Claudia and Agata, as Scousers, and they still live in the Wirral with his wife, Montse.
On a personal basis, it makes sense, right? His latest job was in China – he now gets to live with his family and do what he loves most: manage football.
Benitez is not an idiot. He knows how Liverpool fans were going to react in the main. He maybe didn’t know how Everton fans were, but he’ll have a better idea now – following some of the disgraceful banners that have been pinned up over the city.
We’re just glad that in the large, the Everton reaction to the kind of stuff you can see in the tweet below has been as angry has it has from us.
To do this to someone’s family, outside the family home, is an absolute disgrace.
A step too far completely. We’re better than this as a fanbase 🔵 pic.twitter.com/Z7Wrcr7T8i
— The Bobble (@ElMuchachoEFC) June 28, 2021
What Rafa has done is weighed up the hurt this move will cause to Liverpool fans against his own personal circumstances and gone with the latter.
Fine. That’s his right as a free man – but it’s our right to lose a little bit of feeling for him after doing so. In truth, I lost a lot of respect for him after he signed for Chelsea – a team who during his tenure, were our biggest sporting rival and a club Liverpool fans utterly despised.
Chelsea supporters never grew fond of Rafa, partly due to results, but mainly because he was tarnished by his Liverpool past – but he obviously backs himself to overcome the handicap he’s starting with at Goodison Park.
It’s a kick in the teeth for us, but you know what, it would hurt a lot more if we didn’t have Jurgen Klopp.
Klopp’s Liverpool legend has already surpassed Rafa’s. Klopp won the title. He matched Benitez’s Champions League triumph. Benitez formed a great relationship with supporters, but Jurgen has taken it to a new level. He embodies us. We feel his pain and his joy.
The Benitez to Everton situation is like this: your ex-girlfriend, who you have kids with and maintain a friendship, has gone and married some idiot you always hated. But you’ve now got a great wife who you’d never leave anyway – so the betrayal hurts way less.
If we were still appointing the Roy Hodgsons of this world, and Rafa signed for Everton, I’d feel personally hurt, but we’ve got Klopp. Why should we care what manager anyone else has, when I wouldn’t swap Klopp for anyone on the planet?
Besides, he could always put Richarlison in the U23s, refuse to select Jordan Pickford ever again and relegate Everton to the Championship once and for all – and he’ll be a bigger hero than he was before.