London (AFP) – Rafael Benitez insists he has the support of Everton fans despite the backlash to his controversial appointment as manager of the Premier League club.
Prior to Benitez’s arrival at Goodison Park last month, Everton fans warned the former Liverpool boss not to sign by hanging a threatening banner close to his home.
But the incident, which is being investigated by Merseyside Police, did not prevent Everton hiring the Spaniard to succeed Carlo Ancelotti.
“To be fair, the Evertonians around my place are quite happy and were very supportive. Even the Liverpudlians accepted it was an opportunity for me to come back to the Premier League. It was quite good,” Benitez told reporters on Wednesday.
“Talking about the banners, we can talk about one or two people. You never know. It is better to think positive, how a lot of people were encouraging me to do well. I am happy with that.”
Benitez is a Liverpool legend after guiding the Reds to Champions League glory in 2005.
He also infuriated Everton supporters during his time at Anfield by referring to the Toffees as a “small club” after a goalless draw in 2007.
Benitez has claimed that was only a criticism of Everton’s defensive tactics rather than the club’s history.
“It was a long time ago. You are fighting for your club and that is what I will do now,” Benitez said.
“If you are the manager you have to defend your club in any context. In this case, I will fight for Everton.
“I will try to do my best every single game. I will try to compete against anyone. I am really pleased this club is getting bigger and bigger and I am happy with the idea we can challenge and compete and I will fight for that.”
Benitez left Liverpool in 2010 and has worked for five other clubs since.
He has retained a strong affinity for the city itself, with his family home still in the area.
“I have a great connection with the city, supporting a lot of charities and having friends on both sides. I’m really pleased and proud to be here,” he said.
“The club, the traditions, the history, the owners, the fans behind the team – all these things, for anyone that knows the history of the club, is quite easy.
“I am at home. I want to compete. I want to challenge for whatever you can challenge. It is a great opportunity, a challenge from me and I am really pleased with that.”