Salomon Rondon was a surprise addition to the Everton squad on transfer deadline day – but his relationship with Rafa Benitez is far from the only strong player-manager bond
Salomon Rondon owes a lot in his career to Rafa Benitez, who has been the manager of three of the last four clubs he has played for.
Rondon linked up with Benitez at Everton on a two-year contract on deadline day last month after leaving Chinese side Dalian Professional, where – you guessed it – the Spanish manager had also brought him.
The Venezuelan striker’s relationship with Benitez all started at Newcastle three years ago, when he arrived on loan with West Brom and scored 11 Premier League goals in the 2018/19 season. The duo have never looked back since.
“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 team-mates,” Rondon explained to EvertonTV recently.
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“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.”
Rondon is sure to attract ‘teachers’ pet’ comments at Everton, but he is far from the only player who has followed in the footsteps of a manager.
Here are five other player-manager duos which have combined at more than one club.
Ricardo Carvalho and Jose Mourinho
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The two Portuguese formed a strong bond at Porto when Mourinho took over as manager in 2002.
They won the Champions League together in 2003/04 before Mourinho moved to Stamford Bridge in his first big break. He soon brought Carvalho with him, sanctioning a £19.85million move for the centre-back.
Carvalho won three Premier League titles with the Blues – two under Mourinho – before he moved to Real Madrid for his favourite manager.
“I’ve wanted to come here for a long time,” the defender said at the time. “Mourinho is a winning manager and I have come to a winning club.”
Both spent three years with Real, winning La Liga and the Copa del Rey, before finally parting ways, Carvalho joining Monaco and Mourinho heading back to Chelsea.
Kevin Nolan and Sam Allardyce
One of the most enduring player-manager partnerships began at Bolton Wanderers, where Allardyce’s arrival coincided with Nolan’s progression from the club’s academy.
Nolan was a fixture in the Bolton first team for 10 years, playing 345 games in all competitions, with Allardyce as his manager for eight of them.
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Allardyce’s success and distinctive style of play became synonymous with Nolan, and although they missed each other at Newcastle, they were to link up again later down the line.
Allardyce took over West Ham in June 2011 and signed Nolan just 15 days later. They both stayed for four years.
“We’ve got that sort of relationship where I think it’s just a trust that he has in me,” Nolan told the BBC in 2012.
Gonzalo Higuain and Maurizio Sarri
Sarri’s success as Napoli manager owed a lot to Higuain’s prolific goalscoring, the Argentine banging in a record 36 in the 2015/16 Serie A campaign alone.
Juventus swooped to snap up the league’s best striker in 2016, but when Sarri found himself at Chelsea for the 2018/19 season, he knew who he wanted up front.
“He is a very strong striker, especially in my first season at Naples,” Sarri said after sealing a loan move from Juve in January 2019. “He did very very well. For sure, he is one of the best strikers in my career.”
Sarri was sacked at the end of the season and Chelsea did not take up the £31.3m option to make Higuain’s move permanent.
There ended the professional relationship between the two, with Higuain later joining Inter Miami and Sarri ending up at Lazio following a one-season spell with Juventus.
Peter Crouch and Harry Redknapp
Redknapp’s longevity in the game and loyalty to certain players means that Crouch is far from the only player closely associated with his management.
Niko Kranjcar is one, with his spells at Portsmouth, Tottenham and Queen’s Park Rangers all down to Redknapp.
Jermain Defoe is another, having joined Portsmouth in January 2008 and then played under Redknapp again when he signed him for Tottenham Hotspur a year later.
However, Crouch is surely the archetypal Redknapp man: the 6ft 7in striker was signed by the experienced manager for Southampton in 2004, Portsmouth in 2008 and Tottenham in 2009.
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At the latter two, he was paired with Defoe to create the classic strike partnership.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him and Jermain Defoe up front,” Redknapp said after signing Crouch for £11m in July 2008 at Portsmouth. “A big one and a little one.”
Redknapp is well aware of his propensity to sign the same players, sharing the ‘Four Lads in Jeans’ meme on his Instagram account back in January which showed himself, Crouch, Defoe and Kranjcar, alongside a caption which read: “Getting the band back together.”
Paddy Kenny and Neil Warnock
Perhaps the best of the lot. Warnock has signed Kenny on five separate occasions over 18 years between 1998 and 2016.
The veteran manager has brought the goalkeeper in at Bury, Sheffield United, Queens Park Rangers, Leeds United and Rotherham.
Kenny was just 20 years old and playing for non-league Bradford Park Avenue when Warnock first signed him for Bury.
He was 37 years old and nearing the end of his career when he was signed by Rotherham in January 2016.