Rafael Benitez has discussed transfer plans, James Rodriguez’s future, and creating a ‘winning mentality’ at Everton this season.
Benitez is set to take charge of Everton for the first time when the Toffees face Southampton in their season opener tomorrow, with fans set to return to Goodison Park for the new manager’s first fixture.
Ahead of the visit of the Saints, Benitez told his pre-match press conference of his hopes that Everton can begin the Premier League season in winning fashion.
“It’s always important to win at the beginning, at the end, all the time,” said the Spaniard. “It’s a great opportunity to show our fans what we can do. The transfer window is still open but hopefully we can enjoy and fans can enjoy three points at home.”
Everton’s transfer business this summer has been minimal, spending less than £2m on the acquisition of Demarai Gray from Bayer Leverkusen, in addition to free transfer arrivals of Andros Townsend and Asmir Begovic.
Benitez suggested he would still like to improve his squad if possible before the end of the window, but admits he is happy with the current options at his disposal.
“If you ask the majority want to improve and strengthen the squad,” he said. “It’s still early and we have to wait a little bit but I am happy with the way the players are training and hopefully we can put that into the match”.
One player who has been linked with an exit is James Rodriguez, with the midfielder admitting he only moved to the club due to the presence of Carlo Ancelotti, who has of course since left for Real Madrid.
Benitez said he has had a ‘conversation’ with the Colombia international about his future and confirmed Rodriguez would not face Southampton due to isolation protocols.
“I have had my conversation with him. He knows my idea but now he is not available so it is not an issue for tomorrow. We will try to find the best solution for us, for the club and for the player.
“We have some players who are in isolation now – with Covid around, we have to be careful and some have to stay at home. (James Rodriguez) is one of them.”
Benitez also spoke on his ambitions for the season and his desire to create a ‘winning mentality’ on the pitch, outlining his plans to make Everton organised and difficult to beat.
“[I want to create] A winning mentality and to give everything on the pitch. They used to do it.
“I have seen a lot of teams struggle to get points here so we have to try to do that. At the same time we have to play well.
“I used to have teams that play well and were well organised and don’t concede too many so we will try to do that. We have to agree the plan before the game and then put this into practice in all the games.”