Rafa Benitez defies Carlo Ancelotti and addresses what Everton fans want in just one line

By Adam Jones

"Some people say to finish eighth is a great target. That means nothing for me."

In just one quote, Rafa Benitez hit upon what is an absolutely crucial issue for any new manager at Everton.

Being realistic about the club's prospects is one thing. No-one is really expecting the Blues to challenge for the Champions League positions towards the end of this season.

It's possible, of course it is, but it's not the be all and end all.

But, in the same breath, that never means that mediocrity should be accepted at this club.

Managers in the past have probably fallen foul of that. They've believed that their mid-table finishes have constituted some sort of achievement.

Just have a look back at Carlo Ancelotti's quotes following a humbling final day defeat to Man City, leaving his side in tenth after a real end-of-season collapse cost them any hope of European football.

He said: "Quite happy because we improved compared to last season.

READ MORE: Exclusive Rafa Benitez interview on Farhad Moshiri conference calls and the moment he got the Everton job

"We have 10 more points on the table, we had some fantastic results - we won the derby, we won against some top teams but we were not good at home and this is where we have to improve and work in the summer to find the right players to improve the squad."

Strictly speaking, the former manager was right in what he said - but he failed to really capture the mood of what Evertonians wanted to hear.

Yes the club's squad certainly wasn't optimal last term, but European football was a possibility right up until the last few games - and they only had themselves to blame for squandering that opportunity.

Compare that with what Benitez has said in his exclusive interview with the ECHO.

He's making clear from the start that he's not happy with mid-table finishes, why should he be?

He's a manager that has arrived at Goodison Park in some controversy, but with an undoubted pedigree of winning trophies at a whole host of clubs around Europe.

Success is what the Spaniard knows, and he's making clear that he won't settle for anything less than *real* success during his time at Everton.

It's no use trying to manufacture some new meaning for the word, Blues fans will see right through you if you attempt that.

Ancelotti is a manager with one of the best records in the world, but he fell foul of saying that he was happy with a tenth-place finish in his first full season at Goodison.

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It seems that Benitez is saying all the right things to make sure he doesn't make the same mistake.

But there's no sense of expectance or arrogance in what the manager is saying, either.

He will realise the limitations that the current squad has on it especially, as we've seen in recent weeks, if a raft of injuries affect a number of key players across the side.

He will also be well aware that competition for European places this season could be fierce. West Ham, Leicester City and even Brighton could have their eyes on the same prize as the Blues.

These quotes don't represent Benitez getting carried away and predicting a top seven finish for his side after what has been a strong start to the campaign.

Instead, the message is that the boss understands the club that he has walked into - in a way that others before him might not have.

The former Liverpool boss has often spoken of the pride he has of living on Merseyside and getting to know the people in and around the city.

Since taking over at Goodison he's been clear to say that it's not just Reds that he holds dear, it's the Blue half of the area as well.

On the pitch, it's clear to see that the understanding he has of what Everton fans want to see is having an impact on the squad in these early stages of the campaign.

Nothing typifies that more than recent quotes from summer signing Andros Townsend, who spoke of a video shown to the squad of the high-energy and tough-tackling football that Goodison so often reacts to.

But these quotes show an innate understanding of the club away from the pitch as well.

Unfortunately, mediocrity is what Evertonians have been forced to accept over recent years. Other managers have tried to tell them that constitutes a success.

Benitez knew that, to win his many doubters over, he could not be the same.

The manager's refreshing comments about the club are exactly what fans need to hear at this stage of the season.

But, of course, it's what happens o the pitch that really matters, and it is still early days.


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