From the moment of his appointment in June last year, Rafa Benitez was always an uncomfortable fit for Everton. His history over on the red side of Stanley Park meant he needed to overachieve to survive.
Early results were positive, as Everton won four of their first six Premier League games under the Spanish tactician. But the mood turned quickly, and a run of just one league win in 13 fixtures has seen Benitez relieved of his position at Goodison Park.
That leaves Everton with the task of finding their sixth permanent manager in the last four-and-a-half years, and there are some familiar faces among those thought to be under consideration.
Here, we analyse the five contenders leading the running to replace Rafa.
The current favourite to be the next permanent Everton manager is a man who has held the position before. Roberto Martinez patrolled the Goodison Park dugout for three years, taking over from David Moyes in 2013 and unceremoniously sacked with one game remaining of the 2015-16 campaign.
An impressive first season on Merseyside saw the former Swansea and Wigan boss guide the Toffees to a fifth-place finish, enough to earn a spot in the following term’s Europa League. But the Spaniard failed to build on that fine start, with back-to-back 11th-placed campaigns.
The style of football his Everton side produced was, at its best, easy on the eye and highly attack-oriented. But defensive frailties marred Martinez’s three seasons at the helm and, such was the acrimony brewing in the stands, the club decided not to even allow him to see out his final season after a 3-0 defeat to Sunderland on the campaign’s penultimate weekend.
Martinez has since spent five-and-a-half years in charge of the Belgian national team. Despite having the world’s top-ranked team at his disposal, he has been unable to land an elusive first major international honour for Belgium. But a 75 per cent win rate and third place at the 2018 World Cup represents a solid post-Everton record.
Reports emerged on Monday that Martinez has been approached by Everton with a view to reassuming his former hot seat, but that, while the manager is interested, the Belgian FA have rejected a proposal to allow him to occupy a dual role ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Although his managerial career is, in effect, just a year old, Wayne Rooney has so thoroughly impressed since being confirmed as Derby County’s sole, full-time boss midway through last season that he is now viewed as a genuine – and strong – candidate for the Everton vacancy.
Derby were bottom of the Championship, six points adrift of safety, when Rooney was awarded the Pride Park top job in January 2020. The Rams had looked condemned, but the former Manchester United and England captain inspired a dramatic survival push.
This term, despite Derby being levelled with two points deductions – amounting to a total loss of 21 points – for financial impropriety, Rooney has stuck by the Rams. And under his tutelage, they even appear to have a shot at staying up, despite the hefty handicap. Were it not for their points deductions, the 23rd-placed side would be comfortably mid-table and pushing for play-off contention.
So Rooney’s CV is short but already hugely impressive. Add in the obvious emotional pull of having a lifelong fan and former Goodison Park hero at the helm and the proposition begins to make a lot of sense.
Another Everton icon in the running to replace Benitez is the dispatched Spaniard’s former No.2, Duncan Ferguson.
The towering Scot was an uncompromising, intimidating centre-forward across two spells at Goodison as a player. As a coach with the Toffees since the Moyes era, Ferguson has worked within the club’s academy and at first-team level since Carlo Ancelotti promoted him to the assistant’s position.
Although never a manager in senior football, a glimpse into a Ferguson-managed Everton was provided when he briefly took charge after Marco Silva’s sacking in December 2019. He went undefeated in four games, but managed only one victory in that time, with the other three games he oversaw ending in draws.
Ferguson would undoubtedly be a popular appointment among fans, but his lack of managerial experience stands against him. Any path to the permanent Everton manager’s position for the 50-year-old would likely have to begin with an impressive stint as interim.
Out of work for almost exactly a year at this stage, Frank Lampard has bided his time in selecting his next post after being dismissed by Chelsea after just a season and a half in charge.
He was linked last year with vacancies at Crystal Palace and Norwich City, and now the former England midfielder is reportedly on Everton’s shortlist.
His time as Chelsea manager wasn’t hugely impressive, with a failure to kick on after significant spending prior to his second season as Stamford Bridge boss ultimately what cost him his job.
Lampard did, though, show a clear faith in young players, having blooded Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham and Reece James into regular first-teamers.
If Everton decide to once again look to the Continent for their next manager, Christophe Galtier will be among the standout options.
The French tactician masterminded one of European football’s great underdog stories of recent years when he guided Lille to an unlikely toppling of the mighty Paris Saint-Germain, as Les Dogues claimed the Ligue 1 title last season.
A potential stumbling block for any prospective Everton interest, however, is the fact Galtier only left Lille for Nice last summer, and he has the Côte d’Azure side flying high in second place at present.