Everton’s new manager Rafa Benitez has said he plans to continue working until he is 70, rejecting the idea that his 18-month stay in China marked the end of his career at the highest level.
Benitez is adamant that his time at Dalian Pro was not treated like a retirement home and insists his competitive nature remains so strong that it even spills over into family games at home.
Manuel Pellegrini, a Premier League title winner at Manchester City, looked aged at West Ham after returning from the Chinese Super League, but 61-year-old Benitez doesn’t see that happening to him at Goodison Park.
New Everton manager Rafael Benitez has insisted he hasn’t lost touch after a spell in China; he left Chinese Super League side Dalian Professional in January before joining Toffees in June
Benitez, 61, has had success elsewhere and says he has no plans to retire in the next ten years
‘I went to China, I wanted to win. If I stay here, I want to win,” he said. “Hopefully I will retire in 10 years and have the same mentality.
My resume is here and I will try to help Everton with my experience. I want to win every game. When I play chess with my daughter, my wife sometimes says, “Listen, why don’t you let her win.”
Benitez claims to have no more energy than when he joined Liverpool in 2004, sold local hero Michael Owen and went on to win the Champions League in his first season.
But the Spaniard will shake things up at Everton, with James Rodriguez likely to be one of the high-profile victims.
He won a dozen major trophies with Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Napoli and had a spell with Real Madrid. Benitez has no lack of confidence and disputes that he has anything to prove.
“I have won all the trophies with my staff, except the League Cup. It’s not easy to say that in all the countries we’ve been to, I don’t feel ‘I have to do this or that’ because I’ve seen what I can do with my people,” he argues.
Manuel Pellegrini wrestled at West Ham after working in China for Hebei China Fortune
Playmaker James Rodriguez, who signed with Real Madrid last year, can eventually leave
“Everton has a great opportunity to develop something, to challenge for the title, to challenge for Europe. You start winning matches and you grow in confidence and you never know what could happen.’
He has spoken to his predecessor and ‘close friend’ Carlo Ancelotti since he got the job, but diplomatically says he will rely more on the advice of coaches Duncan Ferguson and Alan Kelly, who have been part of Everton’s backroom team for some time. .
Benitez claims the reaction from most regular Everton fans has been positive to his appointment, despite his connections to Liverpool. In the village where he lives on The Wirral, he reports plenty of good luck messages and ticket requests.
Intriguingly, he at one point thought a return to Newcastle was his most likely destination, despite tensions with owner Mike Ashley that saw him leave St James’ Park.
“I followed them when I was in China, I was in contact with a lot of people, I expected that maybe something would happen, it didn’t happen. That’s it,’ he said.
“I have to concentrate now, with Everton I could see the vision, as a club they want to be successful. We talked about the new stadium, so many things that mean the club is moving in the right direction.
Benitez was almost universally loved for his successful work at his former club Newcastle
And Benitez revealed he was in contact with ‘a lot of people’ about a possible return to the club
“Going to China was an opportunity. Dalian came up with a great offer, a huge project to build something and we did it.
“Covid-19 and the change of the Chinese League have changed everything. They didn’t want me to leave, they were talking about contract extension, but we were thinking about coming back and playing in the Premier League close to home.
“As I’ve said so many times, it’s a challenge for me. We want to fight from day one. We are really fighting and trying to improve every detail in the training sessions. And we want to do that.’
Benitez does have resources to work with. England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford excelled at Euro 2020 and striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin was also in Gareth Southgate’s squad.
Richarlison and Yerry Mina have both represented their countries at the Copa America, while he would like to have a dominant centre-back in the model of his former Napoli player Kalidou Koulibaly, but spending plans depend on getting players out the door.
Benitez has been remarkably lukewarm in talking about Rodriguez’s prospects at Everton, a similar public stance he took with Owen before leaving Anfield to join Real Madrid.