Rafael Benitez says it was impossible to manage Everton the way he wanted to due to his history with rivals Liverpool.
Benitez, who won the Champions League, FA Cup and UEFA Super Cup during his time in charge at Anfield from 2004 to 2010, became Everton boss in July 2021 but was sacked six months later after struggling to improve results and win over supporters.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News, the Spaniard said he does not regret taking over at Goodison Park but admits he struggled to make certain decisions because of his ties to Everton’s Merseyside rivals.
“At the time Everton came in with the offer, I knew I would give my best and do everything to try to improve things. I knew it could be difficult because I was at Liverpool, so maybe I couldn’t make some decisions. It was very clear for us at the beginning.
“I had a meeting with a head of one of the departments and I asked him ‘do you think everything is fine?’ He said ‘yeah, everything is perfect.’ I thought ‘£600m had been spent, it cannot be perfect when the owners aren’t happy and the fans are not happy.’
“So I realised we had to change things inside, but I couldn’t do it straight away because I was a former Red and it could be seen as ‘oh, he’s come in to change our club’.
“In another club, I would have made those decisions. I did it in the past, because you know very clearly that is the way to improve, but there at Everton I couldn’t do it.”
‘Gordon beginning to fulfil potential’
One current Everton player Benitez knows well is Anthony Gordon. The winger was linked to a move to Chelsea in the summer, but the Toffees were adamant he was not for sale.
Benitez believes Gordon, who has scored two goals in seven Premier League games this season, is now starting to fulfil his potential but admits he initially doubted the 21-year-old.
“We played a friendly in Miami in pre-season and after 50 minutes, he couldn’t run,” Benitez said.
“We knew he was a player with quality on the ball, could finish, pass and had pace. But he couldn’t run. We had a conversation with him after the game. It was hot, but he’s a young player.
“I was talking with the coaches in 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, he improved his stamina and he got better and better because he had the potential.
“He has to improve some parts of his game, he knows that. But I’m really pleased to see him progressing because he’s a nice lad.”
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