Everton fans have been left with mixed emotions following the news that Rafa Benitez is closing in on becoming the new manager.

The ECHO understands the Spaniard is edging closer to being appointed as Blues boss after moving past Nuno Espirito Santo into pole position for the role.

The Blues have been on the hunt for a new manager after the sudden departure of Carlo Ancelotti, who left for Real Madrid in sudden circumstances at the start of this month, and the club have since been taking their time looking for his replacement.

Ancelotti’s sudden departure left the Blues' hierarchy searching for their sixth permanent manager in eight years.

But it now appears that they have found their man in the shape of former Liverpool manager Benitez.

The 61-year-old has been out of work since he left Dalian Professional in China earlier this year and has been keen to return to top flight management.

It was a comment that Blues supporters across the land have never forgotten, and one that is still brought up today whenever the 61-year-old's name is mentioned.

However, when joining Carragher on Monday Night Football back in December 2019, Benitez explained what he meant by the claim.

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"I made a mistake when I said it was a small club," he told MNF. "What I wanted to say was they are a small team because in this game I remember they had one chance.

"Liverpool fans they were happy and the Evertonians were upset. But I didn't want to say they were a small club, I wanted to say they were a small team.

"Some Evertonians they come to me and say about what I did for the city, we have the charity, and all these things, so I have a very good connection with the city, not just the Liverpool fans.”

Since leaving Liverpool 11-years ago, Benitez, as well as his stint in China, has also managed Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli, Real Madrid and Newcastle.

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And speaking last month, he admitted that he is keen to return to England for his next job.

He said: "I moved to China because there were no top sides here, so I needed to keep competing and doing my job.

"But at the moment I'm quite keen to stay in England, in Liverpool. I'm watching every Premier League game and sometimes Championship games so that I'm always ready.

"The priority is England, the Premier League, my family is here and I like the style of football here. I will try to be ready here.

"I am watching the Serie A because it is a good league for me but there, in France, in Germany, in Portugal, I don't see too many options in these countries to have a project where you can develop players and make the team more competitive."