Rafael Benitez has revealed he and his Everton staff had concerns over Anthony Gordon’s “mentality” when he first broke into the first team squad.
Gordon, who was close to a big-money move to Chelsea in the summer, thrived under Frank Lampard at the end of last season and has scored two goals in seven appearances this term.
The forward is considered by Lampard to be the future of Everton but Benitez says that although his quality was never in doubt, there were concerns over his “mentality” early on.
“We played a friendly in Miami in pre-season and after 50 minutes, he couldn’t run,” Benitez told Sky Sports.
“We knew he was a player with quality on the ball, could finish, pass and had pace. But he couldn’t run. We had a conversation with him after the game. It was hot, but he’s a young player.
“I was talking with the coaches in the academy and my assistant and they said they weren’t sure. They knew he had the talent but maybe it was his mentality.
“We spent time with him, but the main thing was to change his mentality and he was very keen to do it. He worked really hard, he improved his stamina and he got better and better because he had the potential.
“He has to improve some parts of his game, he knows that. But I’m really pleased to see him progressing because he’s a nice lad.”
Benitez went on to explain how he felt he was hamstrung at Everton due to his time with Merseyside rivals Liverpool.
“At the time Everton came in with the offer, I knew I would give my best and do everything to try to improve things,” he added. “I knew it could be difficult because I was at Liverpool, so maybe I couldn’t make some decisions. It was very clear for us at the beginning.
“I had a meeting with a head of one of the departments and I asked him ‘do you think everything is fine?’ He said ‘yeah, everything is perfect.’ I thought ‘£600m had been spent, it cannot be perfect when the owners aren’t happy and the fans are not happy.’
“So I realised we had to change things inside, but I couldn’t do it straight away because I was a former Red and it could be seen as ‘oh, he’s come in to change our club’.
“In another club, I would have made those decisions. I did it in the past, because you know very clearly that is the way to improve, but there at Everton I couldn’t do it.”
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