By Declan Walsh

20th Sep, 2022 | 8:32am

Rafa Benitez reveals Anthony Gordon worry he had at Everton, details behind-the-scenes talks before sacking

Rafa Benitez and his coaches were concerned by Anthony Gordon’s fitness and mentality during his first and only pre-season at Everton.

Benitez was hired by Everton in June 2021 only to be sacked six months later.

While Benitez went down as one of the worst Toffees managers in history, he did oversee the real emergence of 21-year-old star Gordon at Goodison Park.

However, there were some initial doubts about the England Under-21 international, as detailed by Benitez,

“We played a friendly in Miami in pre-season and after 50 minutes, he couldn’t run,” Benitez told Sky Sports.

“We knew he was a player with quality on the ball, could finish, pass and had pace. But he couldn’t run. We had a conversation with him after the game. It was hot, but he’s a young player.

“I was talking with the coaches in the academy and my assistant and they said they weren’t sure. They knew he had the talent but maybe it was his mentality.

“We spent time with him, but the main thing was to change his mentality and he was very keen to do it. He worked really hard, he improved his stamina and he got better and better because he had the potential.

“He has to improve some parts of his game, he knows that. But I’m really pleased to see him progressing because he’s a nice lad.”

Credit to Rafa?

Evertonians will find it hard to admit that Benitez did some good things at Goodison Park.

Despite having next to no money to spend on transfers, he did very well to sign Demarai Gray while the additions of Vitaly Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson weeks before he was sacked have so far proven to be very good buys.

He also oversaw Gordon’s emergence at Goodison.

The Everton academy graduate played in all but three of Everton’s Premier League games while Benitez was in charge.

Before that, he’d only played a handful of senior games for the Blues and has been on loan at Preston in the Championship.

Gordon struggled at Deepdale and found himself in and out of their side, starting just five league matches.

But Benitez clearly saw something in him and although that pre-season game wasn’t the best performance, he clearly worked hard on the youngster.

Without Benitez, would we have the Gordon we have today?

That’s up for debate and there’s no doubt most Evertonians will say “no” just based on their sheer hatred of the former Liverpool manager.