Everton are believed to have held a second round of talks with former Liverpool and Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez about succeeding Carlo Ancelotti as boss at Goodison Park.
The Toffees finished 10th in the Premier League in 2020/21, marking a return to the top of half of the table but also still their second lowest league finish since 2016. Ancelotti then jumped ship when he was offered the chance to return to Real Madrid, leaving the Toffees at a critical juncture.
Benitez spent 18 months in charge of Chinese Super League side Dalian Professional after leaving Newcastle at the end of the 2018/19 Premier League season. The 61-year-old quit the Chinese club in January of this year and is yet to return to management.
But Everton appear to be making progress in bringing Benitez back to the Premier League. The Times writes that, despite his obvious Liverpool connection, he ‘wants the job’ and backs himself to be successful enough to silence the expected disapproval from fans.
Following initial talks with Everton’s majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri last week, Benitez has had fresh discussions over taking the job. The ongoing interest in the Spaniard may have so far also stopped the Toffees making a formal offer to ex-Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo.
It is said that Nuno expected an offer to come a few days ago after he had ‘effectively agreed’ personal terms. But talks with Benitez have delayed any appointment being made, with it also suggested that not everyone at Goodison was fully sold on the Portuguese.
Benitez famously guided Liverpool to Champions League glory in his first season at the club in 2004/05. He took them to another final in 2007 and oversaw a serious Premier League title challenge in 2008/09 that pushed eventual champions Manchester United to the wire.
The former Valencia boss, the only coach other than Diego Simeone to win La Liga with a club that isn’t Real Madrid or Barcelona since 2000, later returned to England as an initially unpopular interim coach at Chelsea, winning the Europa League in 2013.
Benitez spent two years at Napoli after that, before getting the chance to coach Real Madrid in 2015, the club where he started his own playing career in the youth ranks. Ironically, it was Ancelotti he succeeded at the Bernabeu after the Italian had been sacked.
He then joined a sinking Newcastle in March 2016. Benitez was unable to steer the club away from relegation but stuck around and secured an immediate promotion by winning the Championship the following season. The Magpies then finished 10th in their first year back in the top flight.