Benitez On 'Crucial' Homegrown Talent

Rafa Benitez says it is “crucial” to have homegrown players striving to burst into his Everton team.

Three Academy graduates featured for manager Benitez in the season’s opening month, with others involved in matchday squads and a run-out in Everton’s final pre-season friendly for 18-year-old forward Lewis Dobbin.

The imperative of a fertile academy is common among elite clubs, insists Benitez, whose team resume their Premier League campaign against Burnley on Monday.

Spaniard Benitez reserved praise for Tom Davies following the home-reared midfielder’s sustained effort while managing a thigh problem in last month’s League Cup win at Huddersfield Town.

And the “passion and commitment” of Club-raised talent, coupled with the demands of Financial Fair Play, says Benitez, makes those players more valuable than ever.

“It is crucial for every single club, now and in the future, to have players coming from the academy,” Benitez told evertontv.

“It is not for the first-team manager to bring players, they [players] have to be sure they are ready, they have to knock on your door and say, ‘Listen, I am ready’.

“The Premier League is very competitive and the level of the players is very high.

“That means it is more difficult for young players to come through.

“But our job is to improve them in the academy and give them the chance to play for the First Team, if they are ready.

“It is massive for the Club to have players coming from the Academy, especially with the prices in the market now.

“But, also, because of the commitment of those players, the passion they have, the connection with the fans and the community."

Benitez has used only 13 players in his three Premier League starting line-ups this season, albeit there was a raft of changes for the game against Huddersfield.

The manager was at the vanguard of rotation in football when in charge of Valencia, as the Spanish club juggled domestic and European commitments to startlingly fruitful effect.

Valencia were twice domestic champions and won one UEFA Cup in Benitez’s three years at Mestalla Stadium.

Rafa Benitez
It is crucial for every single club, now and in the future, to have players coming from the academy,

Benitez, however, will adopt a degree of caution to altering personnel at Everton.

“You have to find a balance in the number of players you are rotating,” said Benitez, who has given game-time to Goodison products Anthony Gordon and Jonjoe Kenny this term.

“Also, it depends on the players.

“There are players who, when they are not playing, still train really hard and try to learn the way you want to play – they can play and be ready.

“For others, it is more difficult [to manage being out of the team].

“You need to identify these kinds of players and pick the right number in terms of rotation.

“If you rotate players and win, everybody will say, ‘Great’, because it is a bigger squad and everybody is involved.

“If you lose, ‘Wrong decision, you picked the wrong players’.

“We will change something if we have to, but, at the same time, always try to ensure we are putting on the pitch a team that can win.”

One of Benitez’s Valencia players, Miguel Angel Angulo, recently told his former boss “did a great job managing a squad of 25 players and having them fully invested in a common goal for a long time”.

Angulo, a former Spain international forward who featured in all Benitez’s trophy-winning Valencia sides, added: “We were players of a high level and all wanted to play. He knew how to handle that situation successfully, with each one of us knowing our roles.”

Benitez and his staff work extensively on identifying when players are entering the infamous red zone.

The subsequent job is to select the correct replacements.

“The rotation system was good for us at Valencia because we were working with all the team together, so everybody knew their roles,” said Benitez.

“I remember, I changed seven players in one game and we lost, so I received the blame – but that is part of football.

“You have a big picture, a big plan, to be sure everybody can be involved.

“But, if you have to change, and pick players who are, maybe, not ready, you are making a mistake.”