A return to the managerial wilderness looms for Champions League-winning coach Rafa Benitez after Sunderland’s 3-0 win over Everton sealed the fate of his current employers Newcastle United.
The Magpies were condemned to the Championship along with Norwich City after the Black Cats opened up an unassailable four-point deficit between themselves and the bottom three with just one game to play.
Having inserted a release clause into his Toon contract should disaster strike, Benitez will almost certainly depart St James’ Park following their final day home fixture with Tottenham Hotspur, with the prospect of a second-tier promotion slog unlikely to appeal to such an esteemed manager.
Based on developments earlier this season, there’s one recently-vacated role Benitez might have an eye on.
A price of 20/1 says he succeeds Roberto Martinez at Everton, the sworn enemy of the Liverpool team with whom the Spaniard savoured his greatest success.
Such an appointment is unlikely to appeal to Toffees fans, not least because of Benitez’s infamous ‘small club’ jibe following a goalless Merseyside derby at Anfield in 2007, but if breaking into the Premier League’s top-four is an aim they hope to realise in the short-term, even the most hard-nosed Evertonian would have to accept there are few better bosses available.
Derision rained from the terraces when the former Real Madrid chief was named interim coach at Chelsea, yet this didn’t stop him doing the business.
Despite him only holding the job for six months of the 2012/13 season, the Blues won the Europa League under Benitez’s stewardship, in addition to qualifying for the Champions League and reaching an FA Cup semi-final.
As stated, Merseyside was the backdrop for the 56-year-old’s finest hours in football management, where he secured five straight Champions League qualifications in addition to winning the trophy, amongst other achievements, doing so with squads containing the likes of Djimi Traore, Josemi and Mark Gonzalez.
Similarly, Everton’s greatest Premier League campaign in terms of points won was masterminded by a Spaniard.
Already well-matched, consider the tactical implications should Benitez get the Everton job.
Martinez compiled a team laden with exciting attacking talent, but his incapability to construct a solid rearguard became more evident as his Toffees tenure wore on.
However, there are few coaches in world football who are as skilled in the art of instilling discipline and organisation into a defence than Benitez and, if Everton were to hang on to their attacking assets this summer, they’d soon emerge as a force to fear in the Premier League were the current Newcastle boss installed.