Everton have been warned they could ‘stagnate’ under Rafael Benitez, one of his former Liverpool players revealing how he and several of his teammates have struggled under the Spaniard.
Jermaine Pennant says he didn’t get along with the distant coach, saying he had terrible man-management skills and that captain Steven Gerrard was practically a “manager-player” of their Reds squad.
Everton’s preparations for his Benitez-era debut season have started, with a pre-season trip to the United States later this month, ahead of their final warm-up match against Manchester United at Old Trafford, with a Premier League debut home game at Southgampton on August 14.
Benitez even made his first signings as manager in Merseyside’s blue half, with Everton announcing the arrivals of Andros Townsend and Asmir Begovic on free transfers.
The Spaniard’s arrival at Goodison Park has divided fans, to say the least. Opinion is apparently divided, with some supporters backing their new boss, while others have vowed never to forget his previous allegiance to their Red rivals.
Pennant worked under Benitez for the three years of his career at Anfield, where he was part of the squad that reached the 2006/07 Champions League final, before losing to Milan.
And he explained that he was more afraid of Gerrard than the manager in the dressing room, and that he was not the only Liverpool star who had struggled to work for Benitez.
“Look, it’s different for each player, different players will react differently to Rafa,” the former winger said on talkSPORT Breakfast.
“But in my eyes, he was not a great manager. His skills in this department were lacking.
Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have also made it public that they think it is difficult.
“I felt it was difficult to approach him, have a conversation and maybe talk about certain situations on and off the pitch.
“He wouldn’t come up to you, he wouldn’t take you by the side and discuss whatever you need to discuss.” He kind of left it to Gerrard.
“Especially for the big games, at halftime if things weren’t going very well, it wouldn’t be him pointing fingers and yelling instructions and telling you what to do to win this game, that would have been Steven coming in giving you an effing and blinding.
“Playing at the time, I wouldn’t want to bore Gerrard first, then my manager. Steven was the player-manager!
“I think every player will take it differently with them.”
And Pennant doesn’t think his former Liverpool boss will find success when he returns to Merseyside, across Stanley Park.
Instead, he expects the Toffees to be “stagnant” under Benitez.
“Is he going to turn it on at Everton?” Will he take them to the next level? Personally, I don’t think he will. Sorry Everton fans!
“He’s a legend in Liverpool for this famous game, coming back from a 3-0 Champions League, which was 100% managed by Gerrard and I know that.
“After Liverpool you look at where he’s been… Newcastle, he didn’t really set them on fire, he kept them afloat.
“I just feel like he’s going to be a little stagnant at Everton.
“With the signings he made, again, these are free transfers and they’re not going to enlighten the team and take them to the next level. Are they going to do more signings? We will see.
“Rafa, I have nothing against you, buddy, but everyone has an opinion!”