London (AFP) – Everton hired Rafael Benitez as their new manager on Wednesday despite fan protests against the Premier League club’s move for the former Liverpool boss.
Benitez agreed a three-year contract with Everton and succeeds Carlo Ancelotti, who left Goodison Park to join Real Madrid at the start of June.
The Spaniard is the first person to manage both Merseyside teams since William Edward Barclay in the 1890s.
“I am delighted to be joining Everton. Throughout this process I have been greatly impressed by the ambition shown by the senior representatives at the club and their desire to bring success to this historic club,” Benitez said.
“I believe this is a club that is going places. I’m determined to play a big part in helping this great club achieve its ambitions.”
Benitez’s appointment will antagonise a significant section of Everton’s fanbase after he criticised the Toffees during his time at Liverpool.
Everton supporters’ animosity towards Benitez were raised above the usual level reserved for a Reds boss ever since his “small club” jibe after a 2007 Merseyside derby.
Benitez has since sought to clarify he was referring to what he believed was a ‘small team’ mentality from Everton in the game rather than as a club.
On Monday, Merseyside Police confirmed they were investigating the placing of a “threatening” banner with the words ‘We know where you live. Don’t sign’ hung over a garden wall near Benitez’s home in Caldy on the Wirral.
Offensive banners have previously been put up at the stadium but this incident was close to Benitez’s house.
Farhad Moshiri, Everton’s major shareholder, ignored the dissenting voices to pursue Benitez, who won the Champions League and FA Cup in 2005 and 2006 respectively during his six-year Liverpool reign.
“Rafa impressed us greatly with his knowledge and experience but, above all, the passion and hunger he showed to join our club,” Moshiri said.
“We are appointing Rafa because we believe he will bring success to our club and to Evertonians.
“To put it simply, we need to be competing at the top end of the league and to be winning trophies.
“Rafa is a proven winner with huge experience in coaching internationally and we have secured the best man to achieve that for us.”
Benitez left Chinese club Dalian Yifang in January after two years in Asia.
Everton will be Benitez’s fourth Premier League club, with his most recent time in England spent in a rocky three-year stay at Newcastle.
The 61-year-old also had a spell as Chelsea interim boss in the 2102-13, winning the Europa League with the Blues before joining Napoli.
Benitez has also managed Valencia, Inter Milan and Real Madrid in well-travelled career.