DANNY MURPHY: Rafa Benitez is a great appointment for Everton

DANNY MURPHY: Rafa Benitez is a GREAT appointment for Everton and he will make them competitive again… the Spaniard was ruthless at Liverpool and he’ll be the same at Goodison Park

  • Rafael Benitez was tough with us at Liverpool and he’ll be the same at Everton 
  • Everton were too easy to beat last season but Benitez will sort out their defence 
  • Rafa has not been well received by fans but he won’t listen to the furore  

There was no small talk or cosy chats about the family when Rafa Benitez arrived at Liverpool. It was straight down to business. At an early training session, he indicated he wished I was more athletic like Steven Gerrard, and then suggested to Stevie he should be more positionally disciplined like me.

His tactical messages were concise and decided without discussion who would be on free-kicks and penalties, even in pre-season friendlies. I protested that I’d been taking them the previous season, ‘not any more’ was the message back.

It’s fair to say Rafa was single-minded and ruthless and I can’t imagine he’ll have changed too much when Everton players meet him for the first time. 

Rafael Benitez is a smart appointment by Everton and he will make them well-organised again

Contrary to what people might think, there is no lasting bitterness on my part that I left Liverpool in that summer of 2004 because Rafa wanted to sign Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso. We shook hands a long time ago and I think this is a great appointment by Everton, though it would have been even better three or four years ago.

Rafa is brutally honest — though players prefer that to being strung along — and there is clarity in his thinking. He won the Champions League and FA Cup at Liverpool, and other trophies at Valencia, Napoli, Inter Milan and Chelsea so while his methods might not be liked by all, they are justified.

Everton will become a well-organised unit under Rafa having been too easy to play against last season. The club’s best spell in the last 20 years was under David Moyes when they were always awkward opponents. Rafa’s coaching will make Everton competitive, building from the back. 

The Toffees were far too easy to play against last season and Benitez will look to sort that out

Benitez was ruthless at Liverpool and sold me in 2004, but there is no bitter feeling there

He has raw materials to work with. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison are talented and improving forwards. Young defenders like Ben Godfrey and Mason Holgate will benefit from working with Rafa — who will drill the players in training on team shape, when to press and how to move as a unit in and out of possession.

The one drawback of course has been well documented — he used to work at Liverpool. It means he won’t be afforded as much time as other managers to get things right. That could be problematic in the early stages when Everton are likely to be pragmatic rather than free-flowing.

Fortunately for Rafa, he’s not the type to listen to fans or media, he is a leader with a great belief in his methods and will have no problem sticking to them. Some Liverpool fans will be dismayed at their idol going to Goodison but the majority will understand you have to take your opportunities in football. Peter Beardsley represented both clubs and was adored by supporters, red and blue. 

Everton fans are not happy about his Liverpool past but he won’t pay any attention to that

As for the Everton players, they won’t be distracted by Rafa’s past associations. Managers gain respect from footballers by their work on the training pitch, nothing else. The appointment has brought back memories for me.

The local lads — Jamie Carragher, Gerrard, Michael Owen and myself — formed a nice little group until Rafa arrived. One day in the showers I told them all I was leaving, and Michael then piped up that he was going as well, to Real Madrid.

It was the end of an era but Rafa delivered the European Cup at the end of the season so you can’t say he was wrong.

Benitez will stick to his guns at Goodison Park and get the Everton players in a top condition

I still think Rafa will do things his way. One or two of the Everton players you don’t expect will fall out of favour because he has a clear idea of the type of player he likes.

He won’t try to appease fans, he will stick to his methodology, and he will train with more intensity than they have been used to.

I would be amazed we didn’t a fitter, more athletic and structured Everton team next season – just as they were under Moyes. The only pity for Farhad Moshiri is that he didn’t appoint Rafa a few years ago, the club might be in a better place today had he done so.

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