Starting with the transfer window, a big talking point over the past couple of days has been Cristiano Ronaldo – a player you know very well – and a potential move to the Premier League. How exciting would it be to see him back in English football?
When you said we were talking about the transfer window, I thought you will be talking about our transfer window. My answer will be for you and the rest of your colleagues is that still we have time, we are working on that until 31 August. We have plenty of time to try to do something. In terms of players for other teams. Cristiano is a great player but I will not talk too much about him. It is just speculation to see what is going on and maybe you will have plenty of time to talk about anything, but especially our players.
At 36, could he still be a big player in the Premier League?
Because he is not my player, or will not be my player, it is a question you will have to ask his coach, Allegri, or his new coach – it don’t know who it will be.
Any interest in any of your players?
We have some players, people know they are good players. There rumours about this one, the other one, depending on this one the other one.... This speculation is something you need to do, because you need to give information to the fans. For us, coaches, we have to concentrate on what we have here at the moment. We have our players here and have an important game against Brighton. We will try to do our best to show we are ready.
Would it have to be a big offer for you to consider selling Richarlison?
We are not considering selling him. He is our player, and we are really pleased with him, really happy. Hopefully he can score a lot of goals this season for us.
What type of challenge with Brighton provide?
They are doing well. What I said about Leeds, it is similar for them… They have the same manager and the know the way they want to play… They know each other really well. They are dangerous at set-pieces. They can pass the ball, they can keep possession. They have some good players up front who have pace and ability.
It is a good team. They are playing with a lot of confidence and usual in Premier League, it will be a tough game, and hopefully we can do in the same way that we did. We can be strong together, we can challenge and get a result.
The Premier League have made a decision on red list countries and players not being able to go on international duty to those places. Is it the right one for people’s health and safety back at their respective clubs?
Obviously, it is not an easy thing for anyone. A decision has been made and that’s it. The players understand we have to take care of them and consider everyone has the idea and we have to deal with that. It is the way that it is.
It is what I said before. Sorry about that, I cannot give you too many answers to this question. These players are our players, still we have some days to keep working one way, another way. We will see.
If you ask me the question in three days, you have the solution. Today, it is just speculation. I cannot say too much, sorry about that.
Sum up start to season?
Fine, could be better, could be worse. Overall, the reaction and commitment of the players, the desire, and sometimes the way we were playing, I am happy with that.
I know we have to improve things but at the same time I think everybody understands how difficult the transfer window is for us… how difficult the financial fair play rules are for us. And what the team did in the past, the Olympic Games, the Euros, the Copa America – everything has been a little bit confused at the beginning, with a new manager.
So I think we are doing well considering all these things and I am sure we will improve in a lot of issues. At the moment it is one step at a time and we have to be sure we have a strong team to play against Brighton.
Selection decisions for Brighton after Huddersfield?
Yes, but I am happy with that. If you have players who can compete for the positions, it is good news for me and good news for the fans and the Club in general.
If you have a competitive team, you have to make decisions.
It is what you have to do to be sure you keep the players… it is a long season, anyway… when I talk with them when I make the decisions, it is a long season and, obviously, with the Covid around, you never know what will happen with injuries, so everyone will have his opportunity. At the moment it is just to choose the right ones for this game but the others are ready.
I am also very happy with the way the players coming from the bench give us something. All of them, in all the games, come into the game and produce a good performance, in terms of intensity and spirit and also in terms of play. So, happy with the situation we are creating around team spirit and competition between players.
Squad for this weekend?
We have some players coming back and still some we are missing. Delph has a problem with his shoulder and will not be available. I will not go with everyone. But still we have a training session, so we will train later on, we will fly, and we will have more information. He [Delph] couldn’t be involved in the Carabao Cup game, it was because of that.
On Tuesday we saw Jarrad Branthwaite and Jonjoe Kenny. Thoughts on their progress after coming back?
It’s good for them to play a competitive game. Also, I’m not very critical of players when they play these types of games because you have many players, we make many substitutions and it’s difficult for them to perform at the level they can. We know what they did well, they know what they did well and not so well and we are working on that for the future. I’m really pleased with the way that the team was reacting because it was not an easy game.
Moise Kean – he got sent off. How frustrating was that for you?
During the game it was difficult as I couldn’t see the incident. After, you cannot change what is going on. Now he has to learn. I said before, he’s a young player and he’s suspended now and he has to learn for the future.
The team seemed to have a resilience that perhaps wasn’t always evident last season. You’ve been behind and come back into the game and have not lost so far this season. Is that what has pleased you most this season?
It’s not just me, the fans can see that the team is trying their best until the last minute and if something is wrong we still carry on pushing and working hard. I said before, we’ll have bad games, we’ll have problems and I will make mistakes with the substitutions, with the team selection or whatever but I still want to see this spirit, commitment and desire because it will give us points during the season.
Brighton got a lot of praise last year for their performance but perhaps didn’t get the results. This season they’ve made a good start in the Premier League. What are your thoughts on them and how they play?
They are doing well. Obviously, I could follow the last season and they were under pressure until the end but then they got some results and finished well. They have an idea. Everyone has to decide how they want to play depending on the players that you have. If you are winning it is fine, if not you have some teams that are playing a similar style and got relegated. So I think it’s important to have a balance between what you want to do and what you can do - and, little by little, if you are getting stronger you can do more things and play more games in the way you want to play. You have to praise them because they are doing well and they are now in a good position in the way that they want to do things.
We mentioned Moise Kean. He was not your player last year - he was on loan at PSG… do you think he’s come back and he’s beginning to settle in English football? If he does leave the club, a players that’s been linked with Everton in the past is Isco from Real Madrid. Is there still interest in Isco?
The reality is that he’s our player and he did well last year. He’s with us and we have to deal with the sitiuation now with the transfer window. The first question was about speculation and we can continue talking about that - but it will not be a solution. We have to wait a few days, see where we are and, after, maybe the next press conference will be easier because we will have some facts, instead of just speculation.
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- Rafa BenÝtez column in 'The Times'
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- Rafa BenÝtez in 'The Times'
- Rafa BenÝtez in 'Football Daily', BBC Radio 5