Benitez has already admitted he “made a mistake” when he branded Everton a “small club” in 2007 during his reign as Liverpool manager.
But the Spaniard – who won the Champions League and FA Cup during his six-year tenure at Anfield – said he was relishing the challenge of restoring past glories and create a winning culture in the blue half of Merseyside.
Asked at his first press conference as Everton manager on Wednesday if ever thought taking the job was not worth the opprobrium, Benitez said: “For sure, no. I was convinced when I decided to say yes, or even when I decided to start talking, that it was a great opportunity and for me this challenge is not something I’m scared of. It’s the opposite. I want to win, I want to do well.
“You can talk the talk or walk the walk, I prefer to walk the walk and see if we can do well. Hopefully everyone will be happy, starting with me. If I am happy the fans will be very happy as well.”
Benitez was an unpopular appointment as interim Chelsea manager in 2012 but went on to win the Europa League and he hopes if he is successful with Everton that any ill-feeling will subside.
“I’ll tell you something that maybe not many people know but when I was there with Chelsea at Cobham, we’d go to the supermarket, the restaurants and the fans were really good – we didn’t have these things you could see sometimes on the TV,” he said.
“The majority of the fans every day were fine. Liverpool is my city, we have very good connections with the red side and blue side and now obviously a lot of people on the blue side will be pleased if I am successful. So I don’t see a big issue.
“I think the fans will appreciate we’ll be here working really hard for the team and club and if we can do well nobody will be talking about that or what happened in the past. I’m thinking about the future. I know they want me to be successful and I’m sure we can do it.”
Benitez’s family have remained in the city since his departure from Liverpool in 2010 and he said most people he had encountered had been supportive.
“To be fair, the Evertonians around my place are quite happy and were very supportive,” he said. “Even the Liverpudlians, they were accepting it’s an opportunity for me to come back to the Premier League and to compete for something so it was quite good.
“Talking about the banners, we can talk about one, two people, you never know. So I think it’s better to think about positives and how a lot of people were encouraging me to do well.”
Benitez has previously admitted that he “made a mistake” by once claiming Everton were a “small club” but insisted on Wednesday that those remarks from 2007 were solely a case of him defending Liverpool’s position at the time. “It was a long time ago, you’re fighting for your club and that is what I do now,” he said. “If you are the manager you have to defend your club in any context. In this case I will fight for Everton.”
Everton’s fifth manager in as many years, Benitez knows he will be under pressure to hit the ground running next season but hopes to still be in charge when Everton move into their new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock in 2024.
“I’ve thought about leading Everton out at the new stadium – I’d be really pleased because it would mean we are doing well and we have been a success,” he said. “I have to match the ambitions of the owners.”
After a bright start to last season under Ancelotti – who has returned to Real Madrid six years after being succeeded there by Benitez – Everton faded badly, with their poor home form one issue. Benitez will have to sell players to help to raise funds to reinvest in his squad this summer but he has already held conversations with senior players, including Seamus Coleman, and believes the biggest challenge will be to address the team’s mindset.
“My job is to improve the players,” Benitez said. “I have had conversations with some senior players and I’m really pleased because they are all ambitious but all of them realised something was missing.
“This something that was missing is what we have to be sure to find and for me it’s just awinning mentality that has to be there from the first day until the last day.
“Normally if you win trophies or compete for something it’s at the end of the season and it’s when you have to be stronger. I’m not afraid of anyone. I hope that our team is not afraid of anyone.”