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Benevolent owners who aren’t slow in splashing the cash? Tick. A highly decorated manager with Big Cup-winning pedigree? Tick. A swanky, plush new stadium under construction on the local docks? Tick. Joint top of the table or thereabouts after four games of the season? Tickety-tick, tick ... tick! Rewind just four months and life must have seemed pretty boss for your average Evertonian who might have been pootling around Bootle. Like a reverse Mike Ashley, majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri seemed to have the best interests of the club at heart, was happy to hose money on new players and had replaced one heavyweight European manager with another, albeit a man not everyone was prepared to welcome because of his association with Liverpool.
Of course that was then and this is now, a day after Agent Rafa’s dismissal following an embarrassing defeat against Norwich. The latest in a long run of largely diabolical performances that has yielded just two league wins from 15 matches, with the team plummeting to 16th in the table, it was the nadir of an already awful season. “Everton Football Club can confirm the departure of Rafael Benítez as first team manager,” harrumphed a short statement issued by the club. “Benítez, who joined Everton in June 2021 has left the club with immediate effect. An update on a permanent replacement will be made in due course.”
Short and brutally to the point, the terse announcement made no mention of assorted knack to key players which had blighted Rafa’s time in charge, pointedly failed to thank him for his admittedly feeble efforts and certainly didn’t wish him well for the future. In summary: “Sling it! And don’t let those Goodison gates hit your backside on the way out.” Having picked up his P45, Rafa returned home and fired off a comparatively epic blog in which he pointed his Big Finger Of Blame at a lack of transfer funds, injuries, the impatience of his employers and Uncle Tom Cobley for the almighty mess in which Everton currently find themselves. And while there is plenty of blame for the current shambles to go around, Rafa did not seem prepared to accept any of it.
So what now for Everton, who find themselves looking for their seventh boss in six years? Belgium manager Bobby M is the current underwhelming favourite for the gig, despite having previously been fired by the current regime. While Wayne Rooney, Big Dunc and Frank Lampard have also been mentioned. Moshiri is also known to be an ardent admirer of José Mourinho, who could be in line to trouser his latest multi-million payout from Roma any day now. If only to please those of us who are intrigued to see how much gas there might be left in this particular explosion, we implore Everton’s owner to give it to Big Dunc until such time as the Special One becomes available.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Nick Ames is following Cape Verde 0-3 Cameroon in the Africa Cup of Nations right now and join Will Unwin for gong-by-gong updates from the Fifa Best awards at 6pm GMT.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’ve had a couple of moments when I’ve been up there this season. It was a special moment. I hope we do the nation proud. [Sierra Leone] always rises but our job’s not done” – England one-cap wonder Steven Caulker, who is a new and immediately integral part of the Afcon underdogs’ defence, on how he ended up surging forwards to set up the equalising goal against Ivory Coast that gave them a chance, against all odds, of making the last 16.
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“José Mourinho to Everton will be the next ‘logical’ step in the Premier League’s confirmed belief in Da Vinci’s perpetual motion machine” – Krishna Moorthy.
“According to the French Revolutionary Calendar, Sunday was the 26th day of the month of Nivose, the day set aside for the celebration of Tin. I trust that The Fiver clan enjoyed the day” – Richard O’Hagan.
“When I was a nipper I enjoyed The Bionic Man on telly, the story of the handsome and athletic Steve Austin, an astronaut who was bashed up when his spaceship crashed. But the government-sanctioned surgery on Austin, and the boffins rebuilt various bits of him with machine parts, transforming him into a cyborg like specimen with superhuman powers. I was a little sceptical, even at my tender age, but it was fun to watch. As a man stricken in years, it’s fun to watch the oil money-sanctioned surgery of Newcastle United, but suddenly even Austin’s transformation is believable” – Lindsay Williams.
“With the drinking culture in Downing Street seeming to be as lively and unhealthy as mid-90s Arsenal, I think I may have found something for Arsène Wenger to do (aside from attempting to knack the World Cup and the laws of the game). Some of those cabinet ministers really look like they could benefit from the increase in broccoli intake that Wenger’s appointment would bring” – Neil McGwyre.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Neil McGwyre.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is returning from the Africa Cup of Nations after doctors detected cardiac lesions following his recovery from Covid.
Christian Eriksen could make a return to the Premier League with Brentford, to work with fellow Dane Thomas Frank.
Over 80,000 tickets have been sold for El Clásico between Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Women’s Big Cup quarter-final.
Fresh from being successful in getting Sunday’s north London derby with Tottenham postponed for lack of numbers, Arsenal have loaned Pablo Marì to Udinese. They are due to play Liverpool in the Rumbelows Cup on Thursday.
Real Madrid collected the Spanish Super Duper Pot by beating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 in Saudi Arabia, with Luka Modric, 87, scoring the opener.
And Diego Costa, still only 33, is now a free agent after cancelling his contract with Atlético Mineiro. “Thank you so much for being part of my childhood dream of playing in Brazilian football and winning titles,” he roared at the end of a marathon five-month spell.
STILL WANT MORE?
Torino are the Megadeth of Serie A, writes Nicky Bandini.
Yann Sommer is saving penalties but he cannot save Borussia Mönchengladbach alone, according to Andy Brassell.
Even Bordeaux’s sponsor thinks they are terrible, explains Ligue Urrrrrrn afficionado Eric Devin.
Rafa has gone but Everton still have a lot of problems to deal with, argues floating football brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson.
And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!