Rafael Benitez has confirmed that Lucas Digne wants to leave Everton and has taken a swipe at the defender’s ego.
Digne has informed Everton of his desire to leave the club this month with a host of Premier League sides interested in signing the left-back, with West Ham, Chelsea and Newcastle reportedly keen on a deal.
Speaking ahead of the club’s FA Cup third round clash at Hull this weekend, Benitez has revealed his conversations with Digne about his determination to leave and called out the 28-year-old for seemingly putting his own desires before the needs of the team.
“I think he was very clear,” Benítez said at his pre-match press conference.
“I want to ask a question to any fan or former player, what Peter Reid will say if a player goes and says he doesn’t want to be here? Simple.
“I have had a couple of conversations with me. He told me what he thought, so what do you expect the manager to do when a player is thinking about leaving and a players says he does not want to be here.”
Asked if there have been any form bids for Digne, Benitez said: “I will say to you I would like to sign Haaland and Mbappe.
“You can make an enquiry, [but] we need commitments. People can talk and talk. I am not in charge of negotiations but when someone is asking they have to commit and say they will buy or pay.
“I have no explanation [for why he wants to leave]. We are professional and are paid big money to do our job. If someone is happy or not happy, it is up to you because you are paid big money and have to perform. You have to put your interests behind those of the club.
“In modern football, maybe the stats and the priorities have changed and maybe people think about themselves before the team.
💬 “A couple of conversations with him, he told me what he thought, so what do you expect the manager to do when a player is thinking about to leave?”
🗣 Rafa Benitez has been talking about Lucas Digne and how the player told him that he wants to leave #EFC
🔊 Sound ON pic.twitter.com/lUEynmS7YK
— BBC Sport Merseyside (@bbcmerseysport) January 7, 2022
“A team that finishes 10th and someone worries about stats, changes nothing for me.
“I don’t want to finish 10th, I want to finish as high as possible. I want to be sure that Everton is growing and improving and creating a winning mentality. Do we want to grow and improve or just to manage the egos and leave the team behind?”
Asked what happens if they are unable to offload the defender before the deadline, Benitez said: “It’s very simple. The 31st January, if we finish the transfer window and he is still here, we will do what we have to do,” said the Spaniard.
“We were trying to manage the situation. We have interest but nothing concrete. What I cannot do is bring players who want to be here, and then give priority to players who are not really interested.”
Everton have strengthened their options this month with the signings of full-back duo Vitaliy Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson, and Benitez says the club are open to further business if the right players become available.
“We are open to good players, who are available, if they can improve the squad,” he said.
“We are not specifically focused on this or that. We have some ideas. If we can find something that is interesting we will try to do it.”
The Toffees have been linked with Newcastle midfielder Sean Longstaff, but Benitez refused to discuss in detail the club’s rumoured interest in the 24-year-old.
“I’m quite focused on the games, other people are focused on the names. We have different options and names but this window is so complicated, you never know.”