Rafael Benitez said it was impossible to manage Everton the way he wanted due to his history with rivals Liverpool.
Benitez, who won the Champions League, FA Cup and European Super Cup during his tenure at Anfield from 2004 to 2010, became Everton manager in July 2021 but was sacked six months later after struggling to improve results and win over fans.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports NewsThe Spaniard said he has no regrets about taking over at Goodison Park but admitted he struggled to make certain decisions due to his ties to Everton’s Merseyside rivals.
“At the time Everton made the offer, I knew I was going to do everything in my power and I would do everything in my power to try and make things better,” he said. “I knew it could be tough because I was at Liverpool so maybe I can’t make some decisions. It was very clear for us at the beginning.
“I met the head of a department and asked him do you think everything is fine?” He said, “Yes, everything is fine.” I thought ‘£600m has been spent, it can’t be perfect when the owners are not happy and the fans are not’.
“So I knew we had to change things on the inside, but I couldn’t do that right away because I was a former red player and that could be seen as ‘Oh, he came to change our club’.
“At another club, I would have made those decisions. I’ve done that in the past, because you clearly know that’s the way to improve, but there at Everton I couldn’t do that.”
“Gordon Begins to Realize the Potential”
One of the current Everton players who Benitez knows well is Anthony Gordon. The winger has been linked with a move to Chelsea in the summer, but the Toffees have been adamant he is not for sale.
Benitez believes Gordon, who has scored two goals in seven Premier League games this season, is now beginning to realize his potential but initially admitted he questioned the 21-year-old.
“We played a friendly in Miami before the season and after 50 minutes he couldn’t run,” Benitez said.
“We knew he was a quality ball-handling player who could finish the ball, pass and speed. But he couldn’t run. We had a chat with him after the game. It was hot, but he’s a young player.
“I was talking to the coaches at 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 main thing was to change his mentality and he was very keen to do it. He worked really hard, improved his stamina and got better because he had the potential.
“He has to improve some parts of his game, he knows that. But I’m really happy to see him progress because he’s a nice player.”
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