What now for Everton after departure of Rafael Benitez?

The Independent
The Independent

The end of Rafael Benitez’s misguided and disjointed 200-day reign at Goodison Park has left Everton looking for a seventh permanent manager in six years.

However, the problems at the club run deeper than what has been happening on the pitch in the last six months.

The PA news agency looks at how the situation has got to this point and what Everton do next.

Why did Benitez have to go?

  • 7 wins
  • 11 defeats
  • 1 win in last 13 Premier League matches
  • 16th in Premier League table
  • Conceded first goal in 16 of their 22 games in all competitions.

The bare fact of one win in 13 league matches, taking just six points from a possible 39, and a fall to 16th and six points above the bottom three meant the Spaniard’s exit was inevitable.

What went wrong?

Appointed in the face of considerable fan opposition the former Liverpool manager needed everything to go almost perfectly for him to stand a chance of any longevity. The loss, after just three matches, of striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin for nearly five months was the start of a crippling injury crisis which contributed to a disastrous run of results. Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, who scored half of the club’s goals last season, have played only 282 minutes together. However, Benitez did not help himself with some baffling tactical decisions and the fall-out and subsequent sale of left-back Lucas Digne.

So new manager, new start?

Not quite. Benitez regularly complained the problems he faced were the culmination of five years of mistakes and mis-management. That was one of the few things he got right during his short stay and his departing statement that “it is only when you are inside that you realise the magnitude of the task” was something of an understatement.

What did Benitez mean?

Everton’s internal structure is a mess and even though the club had already announced a strategic review there is little confidence among fans it will provide the answers. Benitez had started his own process, seeing off director of football Marcel Brands and the head of medical science Danny Donachie but his departure has left behind even more problems, if that is possible. Added to that the Premier League’s profit and loss rules mean the club, which made a £139million loss in 2019-20, is not in a position to buy its way out of trouble. Severance deals to former managers since 2016 have totalled more than £40million while lavish spending on average players whom they have struggled to move on has been a constant theme.

Sounds like chaos behind the scenes?

Not far off. Billionaire owner Farhad Moshiri has chosen the last two managers, Benitez and Carlo Ancelotti, even though he had a director of football in place. Chairman Bill Kenwright who relinquished his control by selling to Moshiri in 2016, still wants to be involved in major decisions to the extent where he negotiated with Rangers for the purchase of Nathan Patterson earlier this month. Behind the scenes Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov a close friend of Moshiri and significant investor in the club having already bought naming rights for the training ground and likely to do the same for the new stadium, also appears to have some influence on the owner.

So where do they go from here?

The club recently promoted former striker Graeme Sharp as a non-executive director to advise on football strategy but he is highly unlikely to be involved in the appointment of the new manager. That is likely to fall to Moshiri again, although the noises coming out of the club are that ‘the board’ favour the return of Belgium boss Roberto Martinez – the first manager Moshiri sacked and who was under consideration last summer. Even that shows mixed up thinking as the Spaniard left following numerous fan protests in May 2016 after back-to-back 11th-place finishes.

Who else could be in contention?

Duncan Ferguson, appointed to the coaching staff by Martinez in 2014, has survived the cull of six managers and will reprise his caretaker role in charge for the time being. The former striker has never really been considered a permanent option so that counts against him again. Another former Everton striker Wayne Rooney, currently in charge of Championship side Derby, has been mentioned as has ex-Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. The highly-rated Graham Potter appears uninterested in leaving Brighton while no Everton contenders list would be complete without the name of out-of-work ex-Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk coach Paulo Fonseca.

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