Rafa BenÝtez: First Press Conference as Everton Manager

14/07/2021evertonfc.com

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What motivated you to take the job as Everton manager?

Obviously, I know about the Club, I know about the tradition and history, the ambition of the owners, the fans behind the team. So, all these things for anyone that knows the history of the Club is quite easy.

I am at home. I want to compete I want to challenge for whatever you can challenge for. That is enough motivation for me. I think is it's a great opportunity, a challenge for me and I'm really pleased with that.


What reaction have you had personally from Everton and from Liverpool fans and how did you also feel when a threatening banner appeared? Obviously an incident that Merseyside Police are investigating.

To be fair, the Evertonians around my place they are quite happy and they were very supportive. Even the Liverpool fans, they were accepting that this is an opportunity for me to come back to the Premier League to compete for something. So it was quite good. Talking about the banners, we can talk about one or two people, you never know.
I think it's better to think about the positives. How a lot of people were encouraging me to do well and I'm happy with that.

It was highlighted that after Merseyside Derby you refer to Everton as ‘a small club’. How do you feel about those comments now and what pressure does your history put on you in this role as Everton manager?

I said before that it depends on the context. It was a long time ago. You are fighting for your club and then it is what I will do now.  If you are the manager, you have to defend your club in any context. In this case I will fight for Everton. I will try to do my best every single game and I will try to compete against anyone so I'm really pleased that this club is getting bigger and bigger and I'm happy with the idea that we can challenge, and we can compete and I will fight for that.

What is the minimum target for success?

In terms of targets, it is always complicated. I think that my approach since I was in Valencia was one game at a time.  I think about the next game as an opportunity to win and after we will see what happens.

Obviously, I know how the team finished last year and we will try to be sure that we can do better.  I can do the talking. You say talk the talk, walk the walk.  I prefer to walk the walk and see if we can do well and hopefully everyone will be happy, starting with me and that means if I am happy then the fans will be very happy too.

You’re assessing the squad at the moment. When it comes to improving that squad though, do you have the final say on transfers and what truth is there in report to you close to signing Denzel Dumfries with [Kalidou] Koulibaly also potentially a target for yourself?

The reality is that when you go to any club, the manager has always an important opinion. You have to work in the context also that you have a Director of Football, you have the board, and you have the financial restrictions so a lot of things that you have to put together but I'm quite happy with the commitment of the lads.  They are training really well. I think that we can improve things so that is one point and if we can bring players in and that are good for us then I think that is the objective. So to be sure that we improve the players that we have. We have good communication between everybody working here and managing the financial restrictions that you have to manage but doing that to still be ambitious.

You will have seen Jordan Pickford's performance in the Euros. What did you make of them have you got to speak to Jordan and maybe being able to speak to Dominic Calvert-Lewin just now as well?

I was trying to be in contact with all the internationals.  It was easier in some cases because of the time. It was more complicated with the others but still in contact with the majority of them and obviously Pickford and Calvert-Lewin, yes I was asking them how they feel.  I was following them and supporting them until the last minute and after the game obviously to know what they are thinking about what to do. We gave them some days off and they will stay with their families and then it's just the normal things with players and I think they did great. It is a great achievement for England, for them. Calvert-Lewin wasn’t playing too much but still to be there and to be part of this group, I think it is good for them now and it would be good for them for the future. 

Can you understand why so many Everton fans have reservations about you becoming the manager and what is your message to them?

That is football and football is quite emotional. Everybody will have their own opinions but that the only thing that I can say is what I said before in some other questions is that I will fight for my team like I did in every place that I was working. 

For me, this is a challenge, a great opportunity to do well in the Premier League and to show everyone that the we can compete, we can do well and I will be the first one to be there pushing and pushing to be sure that we can get what we want. Whether that is three points in any game or maybe go as far as we can in the in the cup competitions. 

When you went to Chelsea there was also some reservations from fans there. Is that something that you will sort of lean on is it is that something that you will be hoping that will give you confidence about building a relationship with the fans? 

In terms of my approach, I am professional and very competitive so and I like to see people enjoying the team and the best way to do that is winning. I have confidence that we did it before and I'm sure that we can do it now.  I have very good staff, very good people around plus the people that were here before. They have been very supportive so I think that the we are creating an atmosphere that will allow us to compete at the maximum level and I have confidence that we would do well.

You were successful at Chelsea, winning the Europa League despite the fact fans didn’t take to you. Do you worry at all that the fans at Everton or the fans of Liverpool might not be won over? 

To be fair, I will tell you something that maybe not too many people knows but when I was there at Chelsea.  We were going to the supermarket, to the restaurants and the fans were really good so we didn't have these things that you could see sometimes in the TV so the majority of the fans everyday they were fine. 

Liverpool is my city we have very good connections in the red side, in the blue side and now obviously a lot of people in the blue side.  Now the blue side will be pleased if I am successful so I don't see a big issue. I think that the fans appreciate that we will be here working really hard for the team for the club and then if we can do well then nobody will be talking about that what happened in the past so I'm thinking about the future. I know that they will want us to be successful and I am sure that there we can do it.

You said earlier you can talk the talk but you want to walk the walk and you're at a club which with a great respect in the world has been underperforming for the quality of players they had in the last few years. How do you anticipate turning that around and how quickly?

There’s no issue in the Premier League for anyone. There are too many teams that they spending big money in the last year they have very good players in all that the majority of the teams to be fair and specially the top ten in this case. 

My idea is just to be sure that team has confidence. The players that we have already they feel that they can be stronger when they stick together and after trying to bring some players to be sure that we can fill the gaps that we have and create a team that now can be competitive. That has to be even more competitive to be sure that we are better than the last season.  That is just the target to be to improve. How much can we improve? We will have to wait and see depending on how we train, how we work and if we have a little bit of luck. 

Your role will be bigger than just a head coach that am I right in thinking that part of the job will be to change the culture of the club to make it even to get closer to that winning club that you want?

I will tell you that I have had a conversation with some senior players, and I'm really pleased because all of them they are ambitious but all of them they realised that something was missing. This something that was missing is what we have to be sure that we find and for me it's just the winning mentality that there has to be from the first day until the last day.

Normally if you win trophies if you compete for something is at the end of the season when you have to be stronger. We have experience doing that and I am confident that we will do it and the mentality that conversation with these senior players has been more or less in this direction so they want to do well they are desperate to be sure that we can improve and in a positive way. I think it's a very good thing for me that you have these players that they will carry on, they will continue pushing and they will be an example for the young players.  Hopefully, that is what I am expecting.

Who approached who first? Did you approach Everton? Did they approach you? How did that happen?

Modern football is quite complicated because you have too many people around.  When someone knew that I was available then we started the contacts and then little by little we were sharing information, communication, interviews and then it was easy was it for me because obviously I wanted to come back and to have a competitive team.  I think not so easy at the beginning because obviously they have to consider a lot of options but little by little they were convinced that I could be an option to have.  A manager with experience that could win trophies, to compete so it's what we were looking for my side and for their side.

When you saw the banners from the fans was there ever any part of you that thought ‘look it's not worth putting myself under this threat and my family as well’?

For sure not. I was convinced when I decide to say yes or even when I decide to start talking I was convinced that this was a great opportunity and for me this is a challenge.  It's not something that I am scared at, it’s the opposite.  I want to win. I want to do well and what means to win. Starting with the first game and see what happens. To be competitive for me is to be ambitious and trying to do my best in every single game so I'm sure that we will do it and I'm sure that we can do well. 

Duncan Ferguson, you've named him as one of your assistants. Were you a bit worried when you first met him with him being such a legend here and your connections with Liverpool?

No, I knew him obviously because I was following games around all these years and especially here.  Another thing that I did was to watch some of the goals that he scored and after watching him on the pitch. He could play. If we need a striker, maybe still he can play. 

He is a legend. He will be an important part of my staff because obviously he knows the players, he knows the club, he knows the fans so I think he can be an inspiration for a lot of them and he can be very helpful for me.

You’re the first ever Everton manager to have Liverpool on their CV. What is it about Liverpool, about Merseyside that has drawn you back and has enabled you to keep a base here all these years?

I have a great connection with the city. We were supporting a lot of charities. We have a lot of friends in both sides so for us it's just to enjoy the city. For my family, for everyone and I'm really pleased and really proud to be here and hopefully to do well so that's the main motivation so the connection with the city makes me happy here and to come back to the Premier League is another great opportunity and to do with a team that can compete for something, I think it would be great.

How much of a future does James Rodríguez with you and the way you would like to play? 

We really don't talk about these things.  I am sure that your friends will be asking me about players. I think it's important now to talk about the team, the ideas more than individuals so everybody has to keep training, do their jobs and we will continue looking for the best options for improving the team.  We don’t expect to talk about individuals but it's not fair for the other players. 

In terms of how you would like your Everton team to play how much work do you think it needs to be done to this current squad?

I would say something that is very simple is to play well and people will say ‘what means to play well?’ I remember there was a debate in Spain a long time ago to play well if I good tackle or a good header was good or it was better to play 20 passes.  We have to create a team that will be competitive, that has to fight for the shirt from the first minute until the last minute. Don't give up and it doesn't matter the name of the opponent. Try to win. That's it.

If we have to play on the floor pass it 20 times, we will do it. If we have to do it five times play counter attack, we will do it. We have an idea that we need to do the best for winning games and trying to play good football if it's possible obviously but we are not a stupid and we know that the fans they want to see the team playing well but winning.
There was a tricky question a long time ago to a Spanish coach and then they were asking him if you want to play well and lose or play bad and win and he made a mistake because he said to play well and lose. The day after he has to go live in their TVs and say if we play well we can win more games.  The fans they want to see the team winning and playing well and we will try to do that.

I was just wondering Rafa about Seamus Coleman and he's been the captain for Everton for so long and so much Irish connections with Seamus. Have you spoken to him and will he be the captain of Everton this year?

Since I have been here I have been talking with him so many times. I think he's an inspiration for everyone. A very good professional and today 20 minutes before to come here I was talking with him so he's very helpful for me and he can be a key player. Can he be the captain? Yes, why not because I said before is a great professional and I like him as a player and as a person.  So, we will see obviously but I'm really happy with that.