‘I will fight for Everton’ – Rafael Benitez vows to win over Toffees fans and insists ‘small club’ remark at Liverpool is thing of past

Rafael Benitez has revealed his determination to win over Everton fans and insisted he has felt strong support from some some Toffees supporters close to him.

The appointment of the Spaniard has been a controversial one given he managed Liverpool for six years and has iconic status at Anfield, having led them to Champions League glory in 2005.

Benitez has signed a three-year deal at Everton and succeeds Carlo Ancelotti

He once branded Everton a ‘small club’ too – and a group of supporters made their feelings known last month by hanging up a threatening banner close to his home on the Wirral last month.

Nevertheless, the 61-year-old is adamant his comments are a thing of the past and has revealed that even some Liverpool fans have given him his backing.

Benitez said at a press conference: “To be fair, the Evertonians around my place are quite happy and were very supportive. Even the Liverpudlians accepted it was an opportunity for me to come back to the Premier League. It was quite good.

“Talking about the banners – we can talk about one or two people. You never know. It is better to think positive, how a lot of people were encouraging me to do well. I am happy with that.”

The Toffees finished tenth last season and Benitez will need to do better than that

Benitez’s ‘small club’ jibe has never been forgotten by many on the blue half of Merseyside and inevitably cropped up when it became apparent Everton were interested in appointing him.

Asked about that comment, Benitez said: “It was a long time ago. You are fighting for your club and that 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. I will try to compete against anyone. I am really pleased this club is getting bigger and bigger and I am happy with the idea we can challenge and compete and I will fight for that.”

Benitez left Liverpool in 2010 and has worked for five other clubs since but has retained a strong affinity for the city itself. His family home has remained in the area.

He said: “I have a great connection with the city, supporting a lot of charities and having friends on both sides. I’m really pleased and proud to be here.”

Benitez will be tasked with getting the best of the likes of Ben Godfrey

Benitez has no doubt Everton is a good fit for him and was not put off by the possibility of any negative reaction.

He said: “The club, the traditions, the history, the owners, the fans behind the team – 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. It is a great opportunity, a challenge from me and I am really pleased with that.

“I was convinced when I decided to say ‘yes’, or even decided to start talking. It’s not something I’m scared of, it’s the opposite. I want to win, I want to do well.”

Benitez was unwilling to discuss the future of forward James Rodriguez but did confirm Duncan Ferguson will be one of his assistant managers.

The former Toffees striker, who had a brief spell as caretaker manager in 2019, held a similar role on previous boss Carlo Ancelotti’s backroom team.

Benitez said: “Duncan is an Everton legend and has great experience. He will be vital for us with his coaching expertise and understanding of the players.”

Francisco De Miguel Moreno, who worked with Benitez at Liverpool and a number of his other clubs, will also be an assistant manager. Antonio Gomez, a midfielder in Benitez’s Real Madrid youth teams, will be first-team coach and senior analyst.