Benitez turns to Barcelona ‘leader’ to spearhead Everton Europe charge

Sergio Busquets, Clement Lenglet and Gerard Pique in Barcelona training, 2021

Everton boss Rafael Benitez is hoping the club’s recent relationship with Barcelona bears fruit once more to the tune of a ‘leader’ for his backline, per a report.

The Spaniard was a controversial appointment after his stint with bitter rivals Liverpool produced the infamous ‘small club’ jibe. Benitez recently delivered a firm response to the sceptics, but as is usually the case in football, the dissent will quickly evaporate if results are good.

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To help Everton achieve that upswing in form, Benitez is reportedly hard at work on a number of summer additions.

The club were just ninth-best when it came to goals conceded in the Premier League last year. To achieve their aim of securing European football, that will need to be remedied next term.

As such, a recent report detailed Everton’s interest in Barcelona centre half, Clement Lenglet.

The 26-year-old has rarely put a foot wrong at the Nou Camp, but could be available this summer as one of a handful of saleable assets that could help ease their well publicised financial strife.

Now, Football Espana (citing Spanish outlet Diario Sport) take it a step further. They report that Benitez is so confident in Lenglet’s abilities that he wishes to install him as their backline’s ‘leader’.

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Ben Godfrey, Michael Keane, Mason Holgate and Yerry Mina are already on the books. However, it is suggested Colobian Mina could be sacrificed to prevent a logjam in the position.

Mina is said to be a poor fit for what Benitez demands in defenders and the Spaniard is deemed ‘keen’ to sever ties with the 26-year-old.

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Whether Everton are able to pull off the coup, only time will tell. Though recent history does point to a strong working relationship between the two clubs.

Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina have all swapped the Nou Camp for Goodison Park in recent years.

Everton forward on AC Milan radar

Meanwhile, Benitez is swimming upstream in his efforts to prevent an early issue regarding the exit of an influential forward, per a report.

The Sun (citing Spanish outlet Marca) reveal that resurgent Serie A side AC Milan are ‘keen’ on signing James Rodriguez.

AC secured second spot in the Italian top flight last year and therefore have Champions League football to offer. Their need in the creative department is strong having lost Hakan Calhanolgu to local rivals Inter via free agency.

Rodriguez is on their wishlist, and an exit could be on the cards after agent Jorge Mendes is reported to have been drumming up interest since last season concluded.

Napoli and Atletico Madrid are mentioned, but it would appear AC are the frontrunners at present.

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