Rafa Benitez at Everton always seemed destined to end this way.
The Spanish coach took over from the popular Carlo Ancelotti last summer despite his obvious connections to the red side of Liverpool, and it’s fair to say he only underwhelmed from there.
First of all he was hamstrung in the transfer market with Demarai Gray the only player to join for a fee, and despite an initial good start on the pitch, things went downhill rapidly.
Benitez faced an uphill task to convince Evertonians that he was the right person for the job at Goodison right from the start, and a haul of 19 points from 19 games – along with a miserable style of play – did nothing to convince the Toffees faithful that he could turn things around.
Everton Football Club can confirm the departure of Rafael Benitez as first team manager.
— Everton (@Everton) January 16, 2022
Inevitably, the latest chapter in what has been a glittering managerial career came to an end on Sunday as Benitez lost his job, and former midfielder Olivier Dacourt admitted it was always a bridge too far.
Speaking to 101 Great Goals, Dacourt said: “When you speak about Rafa Benitez, you think of Liverpool. He won them the biggest trophy in club football! [The Champions League]
“What do you expect from the Everton fans? Even though he came here years after being at Liverpool, it’s still Liverpool and the success that he brought them that he’s known for.”
The Frenchman knows all about the inner-city rivalry having scored in the Merseyside Derby, and admits he could never have braved the trip across the river.
“It reminds me of the situation I had at Everton,” he said. “Gerard Houllier asked me: ‘Would I sign for Liverpool? I said, ‘No way!! It’s not possible, I cannot’, because even though it’s a job, you cannot cross that boundary – it’s not right.”
“Maybe I’m too romantic, but my point of view is, him being at Everton after managing Liverpool is too big an obstacle to overcome for the fans.”
The Frenchman was also quick to make his opinion on Lucas Digne’s public spat with Benitez known, with his compatriot now having joined Aston Villa.
Digne took to Instagram to confirm his move, as well as take a parting swipe at Rafa Benitez, in a heartfelt message to the Everton faithful.
#AVFC have agreed a fee with Everton for left-back Lucas Digne in a deal worth up to £25m ✍️
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 12, 2022
And Dacourt, no stranger to player and manager spats himself, believes that the club should have backed their defender over Benitez.
Speaking before the transfer to Villa Park was confirmed, Dacourt said: “Lucas Digne has been at Everton for three/four years now? The fans know what he brings, he’s a good player, he’s professional and sometimes when a new manager joins, he’ll stay for just six months or one year and he’ll stop the career of someone who loves the club!
“In any work environment, you can make somebody or break somebody. I’m not saying the motive behind it is purely personal, but it could be so simple as they don’t like each other or have a connection.”
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