Seeing Rafa Benitez holding an Everton scarf above his head was a surreal moment. Did any of us ever think we’d see the day?
It is one of the most controversial appointments for some time and is sure to send shockwaves across Merseyside and beyond.
Having been an adored figure at Liverpool between 2004 and 2010, we are now going to have to witness Benitez trying to work his magic across Stanley Park.
It’s fair to say Everton fans have had one of the great meltdowns this week, with many simply unable to accept that such a loathed figure is now in charge of their football club.
This is the man who once labelled them as “small” and inflicted some miserable defeats on them, not to mention guiding Liverpool to Champions League glory.
But it isn’t only Everton supporters who have reacted hysterically to the news.
A section of the Liverpool fanbase is treating it like one of the biggest catastrophes in Reds history, cutting all ties with the Spaniard and deeming it unacceptable that he has joined Everton.
Is it not a slight overreaction, though?
Of course, any sane Liverpool fanatic would prefer it if Benitez didn’t go to Everton, given the history and rivalry between the pair. That’s only natural. This is someone who arguably ‘got’ the Reds as much as any manager has done at Anfield, appreciating the values of the city and standing tall during the doomed ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Ideally, he would only be synonymous with Liverpool in the city – probably in the eyes of Everton fans, too – and it hurts to see him now hoping to beat the Reds in derbies.
But it isn’t THAT bad.
It’s now 11 years since Benitez departed the Reds – he has never stopped living nearby, though, such is his love for the place – and so much has happened since then.
He has managed Chelsea, which was also tough to take, and also enjoyed varying degrees of success and failure at the likes of Inter Milan, Napoli, Real Madrid and Newcastle.
Benitez isn’t the manager he was during the mid-2000s, when he and Jose Mourinho were the hottest of hot property, and he has become increasingly famed for playing a negative brand of football.
This isn’t him leaving directly for Everton at the height of his powers, which would have been utterly horrendous – this is a move that makes perfect sense for him at this point in his career.
Nick Barmby going straight from the Blues to the Reds back in 2000, when he was the former’s best player, was something worthy of having a full-blown meltdown over.
Benitez shouldn’t be made to feel like a traitor because of taking the job over a decade after leaving Liverpool, because when you take the emotional side out of it, it is a good job at a point when he wants work.
He loves the Reds and always will do, but is he really expected to turn down Everton’s interest if no offers are coming his way?
Why should we demand that that happens so long after his exit, at a time when Jurgen Klopp is now the boss and Liverpool have moved on, too.
We are all different as football fans, so I understand the importance of not overly judging someone’s opinion on this saga, but there does seem to an element of hyperbole.
Whisper it quietly, but there does even seem to be a hint of “you’re not a proper fan if you haven’t washed your hands with Rafa” feel about it all.
The connection that so many of us have with Benitez clearly makes this a difficult situation, but time has passed and there should be a more measured reaction to it.
I love Rafa and want him to succeed everywhere he goes, but that obviously won’t be the case here. That being said, if he does go on to achieve great success at Goodison Park – I doubt that will happen – I will find it hard not to at least feel some form of happiness for him.
It’s far from ideal and Liverpool fans are entitled to feel disappointed, but Benitez’s legacy shouldn’t be tarnished and he should remain a much-loved figure.
A negative reaction is fine, but this overreaction sums up the overly hysterical nature of the current game.