Premier League • England

Ultimate Everton flop in line for extraordinary Benitez reunion after making final shortlist of two

Rafael Benitez, January 2022

Rafael Benitez is weighing up a reunion with former Everton midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin for Celta Vigo, according to reports in Spain.

Gbamin unfortunately has to go down as one of the biggest flops in Everton’s history. He cost the club £25m when they signed him from Mainz in 2019. After two appearances, though, he suffered a long-term injury.

Only one appearance followed in his second season, before five in the first half of his third, which he then concluded on loan at CSKA Moscow. Last season, he spent time on loan at Trabzonspor.

Recently, Everton announced they had ripped up the last year of Gbamin’s contract at Goodison Park. Only managing six Premier League appearances for the club, his impact compared to his transfer fee was minimal.

Now, the 27-year-old is free to try and get his career back up and running elsewhere. And according to Cadena Ser, he has a chance to reunite with the Everton coach who was responsible for five of his eight appearances for the club.

Benitez – who himself had a turbulent time at Everton, never helped by his past association with Liverpool – is now in charge of Celta Vigo, who sold midfield prodigy Gabri Veiga to Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia this summer.

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There is still a missing piece in midfield for Celta, but they can only fill it by registering free agents since the transfer window has closed.

Interestingly, Gbamin is one of two targets they are now considering. The report claims it is between the Ivory Coast international and Portuguese player Xeka (most recently of Rennes) to join them on a free transfer.

It is not yet clear which of the two players, who are of a similar age, is the more likely one to join. Neither of them have ever played in La Liga before, so could be due for a new experience.

Gbamin could join Benitez rebuild

Benitez is newly in charge of Celta for the current season after succeeding Carlos Carvalhal. Some of the other standout names in his squad include ex-Liverpool forward Iago Aspas, former Roma winger Carles Perez and fellow Barcelona academy product, Oscar Mingueza.

While the transfer window was open, Celta completed a permanent deal for Perez, who they had on loan last season, as well as signing players like Anastasios Douvikas from Utrecht, Carl Starfelt from Celtic, Manu Sanchez from Atletico Madrid and Jonathan Bamba from Lille.

Everton, meanwhile, cleared space in their squad by releasing the likes of Tom Davies, Yerry Mina, Andros Townsend and Asmir Begovic, as well as cashing in on Alex Iwobi, Ellis Simms, Tom Cannon and a few others.