Rafael Benítez Is Not Carlo Ancelotti – Maybe That’s What Everton Need

Rafael Benítez Is Not Carlo Ancelotti – Maybe That’s What Everton Need

Rafael Benítez is not Carlo Ancelotti. That much is clear. The latter is suave, stylish and articulate, able to point to a healthy trophy cabinet populated as a player and as a coach. He epitomises European football; able to speak several languages, a classy and competitive midfielder, a decorated coach.

The former was an average player and a much more professorial type of coach; where Ancelotti charms the media, players and support, Benítez is more detached. He’s enjoyed success – albeit not in the same realm as Ancelotti – but has never earned the collective goodwill the Italian has.

Such realities, coupled with the fact that Benítez is so inextricably tied to Everton’s greatest rivals, Liverpool, was key in sparking outrage when it became evident that the Merseyside club were going to replace Ancelotti, who had re-joined Real Madrid, with Benítez.

Evertonians driven by emotion pointed to the time he called Everton a small club, and the cherished relationship he still retains with Liverpool. Evertonians driven by reason pointed to an inconsistent professional record since leaving Anfield in 2010; if you think the Spaniard has what it takes to reboot his career on the blue half of the city, be sure to stake your opinion with these Premier League odds.

The voice of the former group was much louder, with several etching insulting messages to Benítez outside Goodison Park and some even going as far as pitching threatening bed sheets near his family home.

This led much of the mainstream English media to label the whole affair cursed from the beginning, and there’s certainly a higher degree of pressure involved in the appointment than most other candidates would have brought.

Benítez needs to get off to a good start and put points on the board quickly; Everton play Manchester United at Old Trafford on October second, but before that they’ll take on Southampton, Leeds United, Brighton and Hove Albion, Burnley, Aston Villa and Norwich.

There’s a chance there for Benítez, renowned for results football, to head to Manchester with the wind in his sails. There’s talent in the unbalanced squad he inherits, with the potential to perform more consistently and effectively than they did under Ancelotti.

Because even though Ancelotti was poached by the might of Madrid, things weren’t copacetic during his era. There were positive moments, sure, like the psychologically immense victory over Liverpool at Anfield for the first time since 1999, but overall there wasn’t a great deal of progress made.

Everton finished 12th in his first season and tenth in his second, blowing a shot at a European spot on the final day of the latter by taking a comprehensive 5-0 beating to already-crowned champions Manchester City.

That game against City was also notable because Ancelotti allowed James Rodríguez to travel to Colombia and miss it, despite being fit. James in many ways symbolises the Ancelotti regime; he contributed six goals and five assists for Everton last season, but didn’t hit 2,000 league minutes. He astounded when he played, but didn’t play enough, and in the end was over-indulged by the Italian.

This is where someone like Benítez could thrive; he won’t suffer fools gladly, and is renowned for prioritising distance in his relationships with his footballers. He won’t look down on his role at Everton, like maybe Ancelotti or James have. He’ll be looking it dead in the eye, determined to prove he can still cut it at a club with ambition. You can’t accuse Benítez of lacking confidence in himself; he wouldn’t have taken the Everton job and sparked the furore that he did if he didn’t mean business.


  • comment-avatar
    Empress Touch 2 years ago

    It’s a unique scenario, both for English football and sport as a whole,
    that the fourth most successful English club football team is capable of leading the Premier League table, yet be in the relegation zone as far into a footballing calendar season as the month of December no less than five times since 1994.

    The problem Ancelotti couldn’t ultimately clamp down on was that (unlike the medical and fitness staff – all of whom were fired almost immediately on arrival), he simply couldn’t write off the players who quite clearly believe that passing the ball is a job description – not one of many necessary facets to any generation of footballer – let alone the 21st century player.

    It was entirely down to the three holy letters “FFP”, still holding any team to ransom that (regrettably) can only qualify for Europe seven times in 31 seasons, therefore not playing midweek televised football and not earning sponsorship contracts that UEFA’s ransom demands on club transfer progress. Those still being paid very high salaries without working anywhere near as hard for them as the fans are entitled to expect really do need to look themselves in the mirror and ask: “Why did I become a professional athlete?”, for many would struggle to find other answers than that juicy pay packet.

    In other words: we’re screwed – until either the sporting body sees sense (on it’s own accord or through a very angry set of international lawyers), or when our own club finally realises that the Kirkby land will offer a stadium-building venture for way more than the 52,888 BMD ever will – even should that mean giving [you-know-who] Finch Farm training facility, Walton Hall Park AND Goodison for parking and housing accommodation, in the Anfield upgrade.

    As far as the short-term and Benitez goes, yes – praise the board for taking the best candidate on offer – even if it turns out to be another 12-24 month tenure and yet another recruitment search sooner rather than later.

    But let’s hope that Everton make the most of yet another generous early-Premier League fixture list. Marco Silva’s players wasted great starting fixtures in 2018 & 2019 with stupid red cards, whilst Carlo Ancelotti fared much better in 2020, leaving Everton & Everton Women top: 4-wins-from-4.

    Getting points on the board early again is crucial – in leaving others to do the catching-up – AND giving the manager a stronger hand, when it comes to picking and choosing priorities later on in 2022.

    For rival clubs, we’ve been the laughing stock for all-too-long now.

    For neutral observers, a fascinating cocktail of past and present; with the future anyone’s guess.

    Indeed, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll be in our first team squad next season.

    But one thing’s for certain:
    that Old Trafford rematch from the Saturday night, February 2021 2nd-half burglary Carlo Ancelotti masterminded in the name of Man Utd’s terrible defensive off-side line, is a rematch not to be missed under any circumstances.

    Enjoy 2021-22. I sure will.