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Rafael Benitez says he is not at Everton to manage egos amid Lucas Digne rift

Leeds United v Everton – Premier League – Elland Road
(Image credit: Richard Sellers)

Everton manager Rafael Benitez insists he is not interested in pandering to the ego of Lucas Digne and that is why the breakdown of their relationship has led to the defender asking to leave.

The France full-back has not played since the Merseyside derby defeat at home to Liverpool on December 1 after a fall-out with the Spaniard over tactics and his role in the team.

He returned to the squad as an unused substitute for last weekend’s defeat at home to Brighton but he has likely played his last game for the club.

Everton manager Rafael Benitez and Lucas Digne

Everton full-back Lucas Digne has told manager Rafael Benitez he wants to leave the club (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Benitez suggested the player was more interested in his own individual statistics than he was in doing the job required for the team and that was damaging to his long-term plans to make the club more competitive.

“We are professionals, we are paid big money to do our job and if someone is happy or not happy it is (still) up to you to perform in your job,” he said.

“You have to be available, you have to put your interests behind the interests of the club.

“The question is what the team needs or what the team needed and then we didn’t have that.

“If you are not thinking about that the priority is you and not the team.

“A team that finished 10th and someone is worried about their stats changes nothing for me.

“I don’t want to finish 10th, I’d like to be in a much better position, I am not stupid. I want to finish as high as possible.

“The club is growing and improving and we are creating a winning mentality for the future but it will take some time.

Lucas Digne has fallen out of favour at Goodison Park

Lucas Digne has fallen out of favour at Goodison Park (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“In the meantime you need players who really want to be here. We have to consider what we want to do in our future.

“Do we want to try and improve or just manage the egos and leave the team behind depending on the egos?”

Benitez’s popularity at Goodison Park has never been particularly high as a former Liverpool manager but he came in for huge criticism when Digne sat on the bench for Sunday’s 3-2 home defeat to Brighton and right-back Seamus Coleman was used on the left.

That game led to former Everton midfielder Peter Reid tweeting: “Major problems at Goodison Park, huge concerns about the direction of the football club.”

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Benitez held up Reid, who played more than 150 times for the club during their successful period in the mid-to-late 1980s, as a reference point when it came to his handling of the situation.

Benitez added: “I had a couple of conversations with him (Digne), he told me what he thought. So what do you expect to do when a player is thinking about to leave?

“I want to ask a question to every fan or former player. What would Peter Reid say if a player says to the manager he doesn’t want to be here.

“Would he be happy with this player? Would he be supportive of this player? Would the fans be supportive of this player?”

Chelsea, West Ham and Newcastle have all been linked with Digne but Benitez said no club had made a formal offer – and that could be a problem if nothing materialises before the end of the window.

Everton manager Rafael Benitez bows his head

Benitez has become increasingly frustrated with Digne (Peter Byrne/PA)

“We need commitment, not enquiries,” said Benitez ahead of the FA Cup tie will Hull.

“I am not in charge of negotiations but when someone is asking they have to commit themselves and say ‘I will buy, I will pay or I will make an obligation or something’.

“But people talk and talk. I would say to you I’d like to sign Haaland and Mbappe but I have to commit myself.

“I can make an enquiry and then you will say ‘Oh they are interested’ and that’s it. We have interest but nothing concrete.

“If January 31 is here we have to deal with a player who doesn’t want to be here.

“But what I cannot do is bring in players who do not want to be here and give priority to players who are not interested.”

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