DOMINIC KING: Rafa Benitez carries the can but this is Everton owner Farhad Moshiri’s mess

Facts is a word that will be forever be associated with Rafa Benitez and the facts of this miserable situation show why this sorry chapter has closed.

From the last 13 games, there has been one win, six points, 12 goals scored and 27 conceded. They have shipped the first goal in 15 of their last 19 league and cup fixtures and the prospect of them being relegated is real. No man, no matter what their CV, could withstand such a calamity.

For some of the increasingly enraged fan base – and possibly some of the players – the removal of Benitez will be seen as a relief, the lifting of a cloud 200 days after his controversial appointment. 

Rafa Benitez has been sacked by Everton after a miserable run of just one win in 13 matches

Everton fell to a 2-1 defeat to then 20th placed Norwich in their worst moment of the season


It isn’t quite the shortest reign in Everton’s history (that accolade belongs to Sam Allardyce at 167 days) but it was arguably the most miserable.

The problem with Everton, however, is that the facts do not tell this whole story.

Making Benitez the scapegoat for a situation that, increasingly, is becoming an affront to those who are emotionally invested in this once proud club is complete nonsense.

Everton’s issues go deeper than Benitez underperforming. Much, much deeper. Everything stems from the unpredictability of Farhad Moshiri, the major shareholder who is turning Everton into the football equivalent of Michael Carroll, the lottery winner who frivolously wasted his fortunes.

Everton owner Farhad Moshiri has invested huge sums in Everton but is seeing no reward 

Everton’s demise accelerated under Benitez but the experienced boss isn’t fully to blame 

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There are good people behind the scenes at Goodison, those who are desperate for a period of stability but when you have someone like Moshiri – who can change his mind at the toss of a coin and ignore all advice – what chance do they have?

That he was determined to appoint Benitez last summer – even when there was vehement opposition from within given the Spaniard’s Liverpool legacy – indicates a man without any understanding for his environment.

At one stage last June, it seemed as if Moshiri would appoint Nuno Espirito Santo following Carlo Ancelotti’s defection to Real Madrid. Nuno and his advisors held a Zoom meeting with the club while he was in Lisbon but, after being told a written offer would come, nothing materialised.

Nuno’s camp suspected a deal with someone else was being pursued elsewhere and it soon materialised it was Benitez, who formalised a three-year contract with Moshiri after a meeting on board the yacht of the Iranian’s business partner Alisher Usmanov in Sardinia.

Marcel Brands, the Director of Football, recommended Roberto Martinez, who Moshiri sacked in May 2016 shortly after taking charge, but his proposal was vetoed. Here was a scene to illustrate the separation within: three different visions, three different styles, no common ground.

There are clashes behind the scenes with the direction constantly changing at board level 

Benitez was all on Moshiri. Regardless of the graffiti that was daubed on the walls of Goodison Park or the sinister messages written on bedsheets that were hung at the bottom of the road where the 61-year-old lives on The Wirral, he was unveiled on July 5.

Other than wins under the floodlights against Burnley and Arsenal plus a draw at Old Trafford, there has been little to smile about since. The mood amongst those who follow the club around the country has become increasingly hostile to the manager, to the board, to the players.

They have every right to feel cheated and that their club is being taken down a dead end; no matter how much PR comes from the club about the proposed new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock, the thing that matters most of all – the team – has a giant hole in its hull.

What has Moshiri done to improve it apart from squander money? Jettisoning Benitez and his staff – who have suffered the same fate as Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce and Marco Silva – means the figure for managerial severance pay alone since 2016 will be more than £40million.

How can you get through six managers and two Directors of Football (Brands and Steve Walsh) and burn your way through half-a-billion pounds in transfer fees and wages without having anything to show it for other than anger and recrimination?

Moshiri himself was the big proponent of Benitez despite the fans’ backlash against him 

It was only six weeks ago that Moshiri was pledging his full support to Benitez, telling TalkSPORT that “he needs time to make his mark on the squad”; it was only two weeks ago he was given £30million to buy two full-backs, Vitalii Mykolenko from Dynamo Kiev and Nathan Patterson from Rangers.

An insight into the curious way Everton go about things in the transfer window, however, was illustrated by the loan arrival of Anwar El-Ghazi from Aston Villa; the midfielder hadn’t even been a consideration until he was proposed during negotiations for the sale of Lucas Digne.

That deal was greeted with dismay by fans, who were furious that Benitez had fallen out with the France international but, within the dressing room, not too many tears were shed over Digne, who was described by one source as the “kind of player who, in his head, never has a bad game.”

But how did Digne going end up with El-Ghazi arriving? Benitez insisted last Friday that Moshiri had not imposed the transfer on him but, increasingly, nothing makes sense about this club under Moshiri, who seems more preoccupied about image than substance.

Anwar El Ghazi was brought in as part of the Lucas Digne deal in another rash decision 

Benitez had pennies to spend in the transfer market and now they face a relegation fight 

Why sanction the £270,000 per week signing of James Rodriguez last year, for example, when his peak days were behind him and the club had previously been making noises that they were pursuing youthful footballers with potential?

The Colombian spent much of April and May making it clear at the club’s Finch Farm training base that he couldn’t wait to be on holiday and Ancelotti even allowed him to leave before the final game of the season, a 5-1 collapse at Manchester City. What does that say for discipline and standards?

Benitez had issues to address and it was risible to think he could correct it immediately when he was only able to spend £1.7million last summer on Demarai Gray – who has been an undisputed shining light – and four free transfers. He made that point regularly and clearly.

In some respects, you must have sympathy for a man who plenty of people at Finch Farm described as being fanatical about his work, polite and courteous. On the other hand, though, it cannot be sugar-coated that Everton’s situation got worse under his watch.

Changes were made to the medical department – the well-respected Danny Donachie left in the autumn – and changes were made to the structure. The Academy is miserably under-performing and there are doubts over the future of director David Unsworth.

It’s why this is more than just about Benitez. He carries the can but the rot is deep-rooted, so much so that those with long-term knowledge of the club have warned that the threat of relegation is real. This is Everton’s worst moment of the 21stcentury. What Moshiri does next will define the future.


Rafa Benitez breaks silence on Everton sacking and “magnitude of task” for next manager

Rafa Benitez has been sacked by Everton
(Image: PA)

"We knew it wouldn't be easy, and that it was a big challenge, both emotionally and in terms of sport," Benitez wrote.

"My love for this city, for Merseyside and its people, made me accept this challenge, but it is only when you are inside that you realise the magnitude of the task.

"From the very first day, my staff and myself worked as we always do, with commitment and full dedication, we didn't only have to get results, but we also had to win over people's hearts.

"However, the financial situation and then the injuries that followed made things even harder.

"I am convinced that we would have been better once the injured players were back and with the arrival of the new signings. "

He continued: "The road to success isn't easy and sadly, nowadays in football there is a search for immediate results and there is always less and less patience; unfortunately circumstances have determined the result and it won't be possible to continue this project.

"In any case, thank you to the Board, to the staff, to the players, and to those fans who have supported us during this time.

"My best wishes for EFC."

Everton fans unfurled a banner protesting against Benitez during the defeat to Norwich
(Image: Nigel Keene/ProSports/REX/Shutterstock)

Benitez was an unpopular choice for the role given his links with Everton's Merseyside rivals Liverpool, whose fans chanted their former manager's name around Anfield during their clash with Brentford upon learning of his sacking.

He started well at Goodison Park, however, winning four of his first five matches charge as Everton went unbeaten in the opening stages of the campaign.

But the wheels began coming off for Benitez and Farhas Moshiri's project after Everton were beaten 5-2 at home to Watford at the end of October.

Everton collected just five points sicne with Benitez at the helm, and defeat to Norwich proved to be the final straw.

Derby boss Wayne Rooney is now being linked with the vacancy at Goodison Park

The club announced the news of Benitez's departure on their website with a brief statement, which read: "Everton Football Club can confirm the departure of Rafael Benitez as First Team manager.

"Benitez, who joined Everton in June 2021, has left the Club with immediate effect.

"An update on a permanent replacement will be made in due course."

Club legend Duncan Ferguson is expected to take charge on an interim basis and may have his own ambitions of taking on the job full-time, having had a successful caretaker spell in charge prior to Carlo Ancelotti's appointment.

Among the other names in the frame are Derby County boss and former Everton striker Wayne Rooney, who is doing a remarkable job at Pride Park and would be a welcome choice with fans.

Man Utd’s Nemanja Matic sends message to Novak Djokovic after deportation “shame”

Novak Djokovic was seen boarding a plane shortly after the court verdict on Sunday
(Image: REUTERS)

The Serbian said he was "extremely disappointed" with the verdict but added that he would “respect” the ruling and “cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.”

The judges responsible for sending Djokovic home at the court hearing have said they will state their reasons at a later date.

Djokovic’s fellow Serbian Matic – the experienced Manchester United midfielder – has now posted a message of strong support on his Instagram account.

Djokovic has been at the centre of controversies – including being at a PR event with children after allegedly testing positive

Matic shared a picture of Djokovic lifting the title before tagging the tennis star with the message: “Your glory and their shame will live forever.”

It is not the first time that Matic has gone on record to state his support of controversial actions from Djokovic.

In June 2020, Matic shared a letter of support for the tennis star after his controversial Adria Tour in Serbia and Croatia – when both players and supporters did not adhere to social distancing rules despite the Covid pandemic.

United midfielder Matic has posted a message of support to his compatriot Djokovic

Djokovic later apologised for his role in the tournament, but Matic wrote that he had nothing to apologise for.

The former Chelsea midfielder said: “I see that in the last few days, there has been a campaign against Novak Djokovic for organizing a tournament in Belgrade, although according to the laws of the state of Serbia, everything was in order and it was organized at a high level.

“Despite that, the mice have come out of their holes giving themselves the right to criticize the world number one, both in terms of tennis, but also in his attitude toward all the people in the world.

“However, I’m not worried. Very soon the cat (read, Nole) will be on the court, and the mice back in the hole.

“The tournament was great and I hope it will become traditional, because our tennis deserves it.

“The only thing I hold against Novak that he apologized to the mice who criticize him for no reason.

“No, Nole. They will be apologizing to you – soon.”

Djokovic has been tennis No. 1 for a record total of 355 weeks, and has finished as ATP Year-End No. 1 on a record seven occasions.