Merseyside Police are investigating a ‘threatening’ anti-Rafa Benitez banner hung close to the Spaniard’s home on the Wirral overnight.
An image shared on social media showed a white sheet with the words ‘We know where you live. Don’t sign’ – appearing to refer to Benitez’s likely impending appointment at Everton – hung over a garden wall in the former Liverpool manager’s home village of Caldy.
‘We can confirm police are investigating reports of a threatening banner at a location in Caldy on Monday 28 June,’ said a statement from Merseyside Police.
‘At around 7am, it was reported that a banner made from bedsheets had been placed over a wall and bushes on a residential driveway, with wording which is thought to target football manager Rafa Benitez.
Detective Inspector Darren Taylor said: ‘This message has understandably caused some distress and worry for residents in the area.
‘Due to the football language used, we suspect that it was aimed at Rafa Benitez – but whoever placed the message left it outside the wrong house.
‘If anyone has information about who produced the banner or helped to put it up, please let us know as soon as possible.’
CCTV and witness enquiries are being carried out in the area.
This banner is online. It has been posted not far from where Rafa Benitez lives with his wife and his daughters. It’s sinister, it’s reprehensible and the people responsible for it should be ashamed. They are a disgrace. pic.twitter.com/6prhZt16vX
Benitez became an iconic figure at Everton’s Merseyside rivals, guiding them to a Champions League title in 2005 in his high point of six years at Anfield.
Despite his unbreakable links to Liverpool, Everton owner Farhad Moshiri is convinced the Spaniard is the best possible appointment for Everton to get them into Europe, a decision not shared by all of the supporters.
Sportsmail’s Dominic King confirmed the banner which read, ‘we know where you live. Don’t sign,’ was placed near Benitez’s family home, which he shares with wife Maria and daughters Claudia and Agata.
Last Thursday, disgruntled Everton took their protests to Goodison Park where a number of anti-Benitez banners appeared.
One read: ‘F**k off Benitez you fat Kopite c***’, while another simply read ‘Benitez not welcome.’
Many Everton fans have been left exasperated by the ‘appalling’ and ’embarrassing’ act, with one writing the latest threatening banner is ‘utterly shameful’.
But the protests appear to have fallen on deaf ears with Moshiri and Benitez having met once again over the weekend and both are enthused with the idea of turning Everton into a Champions League team.
An appointment, expected this week, will make Benitez the first man in modern history to manage at both Liverpool and Everton.
Not since William Edward Barclay in the 1890s, who was part of the original foundation of Everton and then the later breakaway Liverpool club, has anyone crossed the city divide to manage both clubs.
Fans have never forgiven Benitez following a jibe after a Merseyside derby in 2007 in which he referred to Everton as a ‘small club’, something he later protested was misunderstood in a second language.
After a goalless draw with Everton at Anfield, then Liverpool boss Benitez said: ‘I was really disappointed because one team wanted to win the game and one team didn’t want to lose it.
‘Everton put eight or nine men behind the ball and defended deep but that’s what small clubs do.
‘When a team comes to Anfield and only want a point what else can you call them but a small club?’
Benitez attempted to clarify the comments when speaking to Jamie Carragher on Monday Night Football last year.
He said: ‘I made a mistake when I said it was a small club. What I wanted to say was they are a small team because in the 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.’
Everton legend Neville Southall has previously echoed the sentiments of many fans, telling talkSPORT: ‘I think Rafa Benitez is a good manager, but is he right for Everton? No. Not a chance! He’s Liverpool, the fans won’t have it.
‘If he comes into that ground, he’s going to have to produce something special, and at the moment with the squad we’ve got he’s going to do well to do something special there, because it’s a work in progress.
‘So, for me, I would rather have Duncan Ferguson (the former Everton striker and Ancelotti’s assistant manager).
‘We’re never going to get relegated and he’s a good manager, I think he’s far underrated than anyone else.
‘He started before Carlo Ancelotti and put us on a good run, he’s knowledgeable in everything he does, he knows the club inside-out, he knows all the younger players, so why not give him a season’s contract?’
The appointment, however unpopular, will mark a dramatic comeback for Benitez, who last managed in the Premier League with Newcastle in 2019.