Striker Salomon Rondon has revealed the influence Rafael Benitez has had on his career as he prepares for a possible Everton debut on Monday night.
Rondon, 31, joined the Toffees on transfer deadline day. It will be the third time he has played under the Spaniard, having worked with Benitez at Newcastle and Dalian Professional. The Venezuela international spent the 2018-2019 campaign on loan with the Magpies from West Brom.
He made 32 top-flight appearances and scored 12 goals. A move to China followed and the powerful forward netted 14 times from 28 outings.
Benitez left the Far East outfit in January this year, with concerns over the health of his family due to the pandemic. He was a shock choice to replace Carlo Ancelotti at Goodison Park due to his previous Liverpool connections.
But he has guided the Merseysiders to two wins and a draw in their opening three games this term. The Blues host Burnley on Monday evening and Rondon has been tipped to play some part.
And the former Zenit hitman has revealed how Benitez convinced him to become an Everton player.
“Everyone in the world of football knows him,” he said, per The Mail. “I congratulated him when I found out he was coming to Everton, then I had to wait because the Chinese Super League is a mess due to Covid.
“Rafa called me in Spain and said ‘just keep training and don’t eat a lot’. On August the 30th I was still training alone and then on the 31st he said to be ready… Everything moved really fast.”
Rondon explains Benitez impact
There is clearly mutual admiration between the Everton boss and South American ace. Rondon is not a prolific goalscorer with 136 in his career from 412 outings.
But he offers much more to a team with a physical presence up front. And the former Malaga man has acknowledged the part Benitez has played in his development.
“I have known Rafa four years and he changed my view of football completely,” he added. “He showed me things I didn’t see in 10 years of playing, how to move into the box, to move for the team and get an advantage against the defender.”
Everton will face a Burnley side with just a solitary point to their name this season. Sean Dyche’s men drew with Leeds United last time out but have lost to Liverpool and Brighton.