Farhad Moshiri still paying price for biggest Everton gamble that backfired spectacularly

It was three years ago today that Farhad Moshiri stepped into the unknown.

A world that no Everton executive had ever dared to enter. The move was the most risk-loaded Moshiri had made during his time at Goodison Park.

Following Carlo Ancelotti’s departure to Real Madrid, Moshiri and his board of directors needed to recruit a new manager. Plenty of names were linked.

At one point, it looked as though Nuno Espirito Santo had the job. But then one massive twist came, and suddenly Rafa Benitez was named as Ancelotti’s successor.

READ MORE: The 10 Everton players leaving today as Kevin Thelwell continues Finch Farm rebuild

READ MORE: Everton position on PSR calculation after summer transfers as key deadline nears

Moshiri’s decision to recruit Benitez is the most contentious and controversial managerial appointment in the club's history. The Everton chief was convinced the Spaniard was the man to revive his club’s fortunes. How wrong he was.

The only thing the appointment did was divide the club. It was a ridiculous move.

Ahead of Benitez's arrival, there was a concern that Goodison could turn toxic. It's horrible when the atmosphere sours. Horrible. But that is exactly what happened.

A 5-2 home defeat to Watford at the end of October brought about a change in the mood. And then by the time the full-time whistle blew against Liverpool at the start of December, things had truly turned toxic.

Boos rang out inside Goodison before Marcel Brands, who never wanted Benitez in the first place, left the club just a few days later. The Dutchman's departure marked another tumultuous day in Everton’s recent history.

Brands, following the 4-1 defeat to Jurgen Klopp’s side, was harangued by one supporter who asked what he did at the club and whether he was responsible for recruiting the players. He replied by asking the fan: "Do you think it’s only the players?" The comment raised questions as to whether he was criticising Benitez, Moshiri, or both.

But Benitez would survive until after Christmas. However, following a 2-1 defeat to Norwich City at Carrow Road, the axe finally fell on the Spaniard.

It wasn’t quite the shortest reign in Everton’s history (that accolade belongs to Sam Allardyce at 167 days), but it was arguably the most miserable. There was a moment in the immediate aftermath of Benitez's sacking that summed up the single most damning indictment of Moshiri and his absolutely crazy decision.

Midway through the game between Liverpool and Brentford at Anfield, the Kop, hearing the news of the Spaniard’s sacking, began to sing loudly: "Rafa, Rafael, Benitez." This came just over a month after similar chants could be heard from the away end during the Merseyside derby at Goodison.

But people now realise that Everton’s issues went deeper than Benitez's underperformance. Much, much deeper.

In the end, supporters turned on the board and on Moshiri himself. Frank Lampard came in last January and managed to preserve the club’s top-flight status.

But by the middle of January 2023, he was the next to be sacked, with Sean Dyche coming in and again managing to keep the club up on the final day of the season. But everything seems to stem from the unpredictability of Moshiri.

Chairman Bill Kenwright had major reservations about Benitez taking over from Ancelotti. Unfortunately for him and the rest of the club, those reservations proved sadly prophetic.

The banners, the protests and the general air of gloom that followed most of the second-half of this season meant that change was needed once the campaign ended. It was a dysfunctional situation that simply could not continue.

Everton had to do something to clear the poisoned air around the club. But as those inside the corridors of power reflect on where the stench first came from, they should look no further than the day Moshiri appointed Benitez.

It was the start of a decline that nearly cost Everton their place in the top-flight, and Moshiri only has himself to blame for not only Benitez’s sacking but the situation his club currently finds themselves in. Moshiri took the biggest gamble of his turbulent time in charge three years ago today and lost. He is still paying the price.