Liverpool vs Everton: Rafa Benitez makes honest admission ahead of Merseyside derby
Rafa Benitez spent six years at Liverpool before a shorter stint as Everton manager
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Rafa Benitez has admitted that he has split loyalties ahead of the Merseyside derby, refusing to favour either Liverpool or Everton.
The Spaniard became only the second manager to take charge of both clubs when appointed Everton boss in June 2021.
While his six-year stint with Liverpool brought significantly more success than a six-and-a-half month spell at Goodison Park, Benitez still feels warmly about both sets of supporters.
Though conceding that Everton fans had found it hard to move on from his Liverpool past, the 62-year-old insists he does not favour either side.
“When I first arrived at Anfield I was surprised by the people, they were very friendly, they tried to help with adapting to the new place from day one,” Benitez wrote in the foreword to Crossing the Park: The Men Who Dared to Play for Both Liverpool and Everton, a forthcoming book by Peter Kenny Jones.
“Then at Everton, there were a lot of friendly people, but the difference was that some looked at you differently, they couldn’t forget the past with Liverpool.
“I feel at home in Merseyside, my family is completely at home here and that is important. The Liverpool fans are still kind and close today, many of the Everton fans know what actually happened and are, let’s say, friendly.
“I can’t say I’m more Liverpool or Everton today. Logically, in six years there were a lot of highs at Liverpool, but I still have good friends amongst the Everton fans.”
Benitez was dismissed by Everton in January 2022 after a run of nine defeats in 13 games.
The Spaniard, who has also managed Chelsea and Newcastle, has been out of work since leaving that role, though has recently connected with a possible return to the Premier League at Leeds.
Reflecting on his two tenures on Merseyside, Benitez prefers to think of the highs – most prominently the Champions League win in Istanbul in 2005.
The 62-year-old said: “My best moment with Liverpool was the Champions League in 2005, along with many other good memories; the worst moment was the feeling towards the end that something was changing for the worse and that I had to leave.
“With Everton, the best moment was the 2-1 win in December against Arsenal.
“I’d rather not talk about the bad moments. I don’t think that managing Everton tarnished my reputation at Anfield; the Liverpool fans understood that my family and my home are here and that I hadn’t been managing for a while, so many accepted this.”
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