Roberto Martinez is Everton’s No.1 choice to replace Rafa Benitez as manager

Roberto Martinez is Everton’s No.1 choice to be next boss

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Roberto Martinez is the No.1 choice among the Everton board to replace Rafa Benitez after his tumultuous six-month tenure at Goodison Park was brought to an end.

Benitez, who fell out with the club’s head of medical and saw off director of football Marcel Brands in a Merseyside power struggle, before also falling out and selling fan favourite Lucas Digne, was dismissed on Sunday.

His dismissal came after owner Farhad Moshiri was urged by members of the board to sack the Spaniard after a disastrous run of one win in 13 came to a head in Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Norwich City.

The dismal display at Carrow Road was the final straw for club chiefs, many of whom had been against Benitez’s appointment in the summer.

Finally, they were able to persuade Moshiri – who had backed Benitez to the tune of £30million in recent weeks and agreed to the sale of Digne to Aston Villa – that Benitez’s controversial and unpopular reign needed to come to an end.

The former Real Madrid and Liverpool boss posted an emotional farewell message on his website on Sunday evening, even while he continued to believe he would have turned things around.

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

“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 results and it won't be possible to continue this project.”

Norwich was the end of the road for Rafa
(Image: Action Images via Reuters)

Now Iranian billionaire Moshiri is again searching for another new manager, with ex-Toffees boss Martinez at the top of the list.

The Belgium boss is much-liked in the boardroom, having spent three years in charge previously at Goodison, leading the side to fifth in his debut season and 11th in his second; he was sacked, amid fan protests, with one game of the 2015-16 campaign remaining, with the side sitting 12th in the Premier League.

Mirror Football understands contact has been made with the Belgium FA over a move to allow Martinez to make a Premier League return… potentially for as little as £2million.

During his time as Belgium coach – and technical director of the country’s FA – the Red Devils have risen to first in the FIFA world rankings and while he has made little secret of a desire to return to the Premier League at some point, whether he would be willing to do so just 10 months before a World Cup is another question.

Should Martinez be against walking out on Belgium, Wayne Rooney has been mooted as another possibility following his work with Derby County, whom he led off the foot of the Championship table this weekend – despite the Rams’ 21-point deduction this term.

Former Manchester United striker Andy Cole believes Rooney’s achievements at Derby prove he could make a fist of turning things around at his old club.

“It is his boyhood club and anything is possible in football nowadays,” Cole told Sky Sports News.

“If Wayne did go there, if you look at what he is doing at Derby at the moment, he is working miracles.

“I’m not going to call it a shoestring budget because it is not even that, the results he is getting – whatever he is doing with backroom staff and with the players, they are all buying into it so if he was given the opportunity, no doubts he would be able to do it there as well.”