By Adefunmiloye Alani

14th Oct, 2021 | 8:07am

Benitez was surprised Moshiri and Everton board didn't know him enough

Rafa Benitez has admitted he was left surprised after the Everton board had initial doubts about his professionalism before appointing him.

The Spaniard succeeded Carlo Ancelotti in the summer after the Italian left unexpectedly for Real Madrid, but his decision to leave Europe for the Chinese Super League appeared to have changed opinions about him.

Toffees majority owner Farhad Moshiri and some of the club’s chiefs wanted to be sure that Benitez still had the same passion that brought him to the Premier League back in the early 2000s, and that left him somewhat baffled.

He told Liverpool Echo: “I spoke to Mr Moshiri and then there was a big conference call with lots of people and then it was right.

“They wanted to ask questions and then, this was something which surprised me, they did not know me as a professional.

“They can read the press and maybe the ECHO and say ‘he is this and he is that’, but they think I have gone to China and then that is it. I went to China because I couldn’t compete here and it was a great opportunity.

“It was a project with potential and money, but the pandemic changed everything. So coming here meant I could compete again. Owners with ambition.”

Understandable

Leaving for money-rich China did not do Benitez a lot of favours in the eyes of several pundits and journalists, and it is understandable if Everton were unsure about his ambitions before appointing him.

Despite the massive footballing project that the Chinese Super League initially boasted of pre-covid-19, many believed it was only money-grabbers that left Europe for the Asian country.

The Toffees boss left after the crippling effects of the pandemic halted football, and he is now looking to prove himself all over again.

His start to life at Goodison Park upon his return to Merseyside has surpassed initial expectations, but Everton need to keep improving and delivering for all these to last.

Ending 2021-22 in the top-six will be widely considered as an unbelievable and incredible achievement, and should Benitez end up establishing the Blues as European regulars during his regime, he will go down in history as an Everton hero.

In other Everton news, Benitez has asked Toffees star with UEFA coaching badge to mentor Gordon.

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