Liverpool legend Sir Kenny Dalglish understands why fans from both clubs in the city are struggling to comprehend the fact Rafa Benitez has decided to manage Everton but feels his Anfield reputation is untarnished.
Benitez, 61, was unveiled as Carlo Ancelotti’s successor on Wednesday. The Italian tactician made a surprise Goodison Park exit at the end of the season to return to Real Madrid. Many names were linked with the Toffees and it always seemed as though Benitez was an outsider due to his links to Liverpool.
But he is the man charged with the task of elevating the club to the next level. Unsurprisingly, there has been mixed reaction to his appointment from both halves of the city’s footballing divide.
There are fans who have welcomed the Spaniard and plenty who feel it is a betrayal of loyalties from both clubs. Dalglish understands the concerns and admits it was news of seismic proportions when first announced.
“It was going to take something special to take the headlines away from England’s bid to reach the semi-finals of the Euros,” he wrote in his Sunday Post column. “They maybe didn’t quite manage it, of course, but Everton’s decision to appoint Rafa Benitez as their new manager gave it a fair go.
“People are entitled to an opinion, and there has been plenty said and written about it. From the Red side and the Blue side of the city, some can’t believe that a former Liverpool boss has decided to make the switch to Goodison.”
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There is no question that the former Real Madrid coach will be booed when the two clubs face each other in 2021-2022. That is the nature of football and he will expect negativity for some time.
It happened when he managed Chelsea for a short stint. He was booed by the Blues fans due to his Liverpool links but still guided them to Europa League glory in 2012-13.
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But Dalglish believes that the extraordinary Champions League triumph of 2005 means he will never be an outcast. The Merseysiders came back from 3-0 down to beat AC Milan on penalties on an unforgettable night in Istanbul.
“My view is that what he achieved as Liverpool manager, such as the Champions League success in 2005, means he will always be an iconic figure at the club,” he added.