Everton are hopeful of confirming Rafael Benitez as Carlo Ancelotti’s successor within days.
Former Liverpool manager Benitez, 61, has held several rounds of negotiations with Everton owner Farhad Moshiri and the club’s decision makers over the last two weeks.
The Spaniard has impressed enough for them to ignore a mixed reaction from their fanbase to his proposed arrival.
Benitez’s arrival would be a contentious and controversial one as many Everton fans remain opposed to him after he described them as a “small club” following a goalless Merseyside derby at Anfield in February 2007.
The Spaniard later admitted he had made a mistake, saying he was referring to the defensive approach of David Moyes’ team in that particular game rather than Everton as a club.
Contract talks between Everton and Benitez are moving ahead and it now looks certain that, barring any late hitches, he will become only the second man to manage both Merseyside clubs having won the Champions League and the FA Cup in a six-year spell at Anfield before his departure in 2010.
William Edward Barclay, who was part of the original foundation of Everton in the 1890s and later the breakaway Liverpool club, is the only person to have crossed the city divide to manage both clubs.
The pursuit of Benitez has been a delicate matter for Everton owner Moshiri, drawing criticism from many supporters and seeing two banners placed outside Goodison Park.
However, the Iranian-British businessman is convinced that Benitez is driven, determined and single-minded enough to take the club back into Europe after finishing 10th under Ancelotti last season.
Benitez last managed in the Premier League at Newcastle United before leaving in June 2019 to move to China as coach of Dalian Professional, who he left in January.
He still lives locally and is convinced his methods and track record will win over sceptical supporters.
Benitez is no stranger to walking into a potentially hostile environment after the reception he received when he took over as Chelsea’s interim manager in November 2012 following a long, intense rivalry when he was in charge of Liverpool.
The Spaniard was roundly jeered when he took charge for his first game at home to Manchester City at Stamford Bridge – but was a resounding success, winning the Europa League and guiding them to third place in the Premier League.
Moshiri is now hoping he will spark a similar revival at Goodison Park.