Salomón Rondón is vowing to fight tooth and nail for Everton after a “dream” move to Goodison Park reunited the striker with a manager who “changed my vision of football”.
Venezuelan Rondón completed a deadline-day transfer this week to return to the Premier League two years after leaving Newcastle United.
The 31-year-old scored 12 goals and assisted seven in his single season in the North East under Benitez, the boss who subsequently took Rondón to Dalian Professional in China.
Rondón remained in the goals in Asia – and on loan at Russian club CSKA Moscow last season.
And when Benitez and Director of Football, Marcel Brands, presented the striker with the opportunity to sign for Everton, Rondón didn’t need asking twice.
“Rafa called me and said, ‘You have the chance to come… Do you want to come?’,” Rondón told evertontv.
"I said: ‘Yes, of course, it is Everton, a big club in the Premier League, I want to sign.
“It is a pleasure and an honour and I am really happy.
“I enjoy playing for Rafa a lot because he is the manager who changed my mentality and how I see the game, what he needs from me to help the team and my teammates.
“We were in Newcastle together and he explained very clearly the main points for a striker. In China, it was the same.
“Now it is the same, again, because I saw the three [Premier League] games Everton played this season and I identify myself with the idea of how Rafa plays.
“For me, it is an honour, as well, that a manager like Rafa Benitez has confidence in me."
Rondón originally came to England with West Bromwich Albion six years ago and was a warrior figure in three seasons with the Hawthorns club.
The player, who had prolific spells with Malaga in Spain and Russian club Zenit Saint Petersburg, swapped West Brom for Newcastle in the summer of 2018.
“The manager [Benitez] taught me it is the finishing and movement that is important,” said Rondón.
“Sometimes, I saw my job as just to score goals. I am a striker and want to score goals and give assists.
“But the most important thing is movement to help the team, to create space for another player, or for me, if a defender is near.
“Rafa changed the vision I have of football because the team is the most important thing for a club and the players.
“His management of the team is special because, in some games, you have to do extra work, or work really hard to get the points.
“He showed to the players, you can go to the limits.
“The possibility to win the game is always there and you have to work really hard for that.
“The most important thing is to support my teammates, fight with defenders and, when the ball comes, play simple and go into the box.”
Rondón’s deadline-night move went to the wire and the player expressed his gratitude to Brands, Benitez and "the people who worked for the Club to make this possible for me”.
“It is not easy arranging a move back to the Premier League from China,” continued Rondón.
"The dream is coming true, I wanted to go back to the Premier League – and it is with Everton, a big club with a special history in football.
"I kept training, on the morning of [August[ 31st. Marcel talked with me, said, 'be ready, any moment we will sign , we have to do it quickly because the deadline is there'.
"I appreciate and am thankful to the people who worked for the Club to make this possible for me. It is amazing."
As speculation over an Everton move for Rondón surfaced, a video emerged on social media of the player giving his shirt to a young Evertonian after a game for West Brom at Goodison.
The gesture, he says, is illustrative of a footballer who values his connection with supporters – and is excited by the prospect of following a long line of first-rate Everton centre-forwards.
“Somebody said that Evertonians love their number nines,” added Rondón.
“Sometimes, the number nine scores as many goals as possible. If not, try to help your teammates and, most importantly, win the three points because that helps the team and the Evertonians go up the table.
“When you feel the people behind you, it doesn’t matter if you lose or miss a chance.
“The most important thing is the fans respect you and you respect the fans.
“You have to give everything on the pitch.
“I will do my best and give Evertonians all my hard work and goals… because the supporters are always there and they have to feel proud of their team.”