Premier League • England

Benitez spills Lucas Digne decision in major reveal before offering stern defence of Everton project

Rafa Benitez Everton

Everton manager Rafael Benitez has defended the project he is building after confirming that Lucas Digne has asked to leave the club.

The Toffees are in the early stages of life under the Spanish boss, but he is already implementing big changes. While he wants to instil a winning mentality on the pitch, he hopes a review of operations at the top of the club will have an impact.

Despite his bid to get everyone on the same page, left-back Digne has not properly brought into Benitez’s methods.

Benitez dropped the Frenchman following a reported disagreement in training. Since then, speculation has grown that the 2018 signing from Barcelona wants to leave Goodison Park.

And the manager confirmed the news in his press conference on Friday.

Benitez said: “I think he was very clear. I want to ask a question to every fan. What would Peter Reid do or say if a player says he doesn’t want to be there? That’s it, simple.

“I had a couple of conversations with him [Digne]. He told me what he thought, so what do you expect a manager to do when a player is thinking about leaving?”

Digne missed December’s draw with Chelsea in December through injury. Despite returning to fitness, Benitez opted to play right-footed Seamus Coleman on the left against Brighton.

Benitez said when asked about the decision: “Because as a manager you have a responsibility, you try to do what is best for the club and sometimes you pay for that.”

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Asked why Digne wants to leave the club, Benitez added: “I have no explanation. We are professionals, we are paid big money to do our job and if someone is happy or not happy, it’s up to you and your job.

“They pay you big money to perform. You have to perform, you have to be available and you have to put your interests behind the interests of the club. That is my feeling and the feeling of everyone since I am a professional in football.

“But more than football, maybe the stats and the priorities have changed and people think about themselves ahead of the team.”

Benitez denied that he thinks Digne is putting himself ahead of the team. However, in another intriguing admission, the Spaniard questioned if Everton should be trying to “manage the egos” while trying to improve.

As such, attention is turning towards where Digne could go next. Chelsea are supposedly one of the frontrunners as they look to find cover for the injured Ben Chilwell.

Meanwhile, Everton supposedly want Newcastle to register interest so they can attempt a swap deal for Magpies midfielder Sean Longstaff. But Digne has rejected a move to the North East.

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In any case, Benitez has insisted that, amid all the talk of interested clubs, he has yet to receive any firm proposals for Digne.

“I would like to sign [Erling] Haaland and [Kylian] Mbappe. I can do enquiries, but I have to commit myself. We need commitment, we don’t need enquiries,” he said.

“I am not in charge of the negotiations but when someone is asking they have to commit themselves. they have to say ‘Ok, I will buy or I will make an obligation’ or something.”

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Everton have already bolstered their full-back ranks amid the probability of Digne leaving.

They have brought in Vitaliy Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson.