Rafa Benitez called David Moyes' Everton 'a small club' now they prepare to lock horns again


All eyes will be on Goodison park this Sunday as one former Red manager and one former Blue meet once again. 

The Merseyside derby is one of football’s fiercest rivalries, one which Rafa Benitez and David Moyes both got swept up in. 

There is little love lost between the former Mersey managers as they prepare to lock horns once again – but this time the ex-Reds boss find himself on the opposite side of the divide in the Blue dugout. 

Rafa Benitez (left) and David Moyes's (right) rivalry ignited as Liverpool and Everton managers

Rafa Benitez (left) and David Moyes’s (right) rivalry ignited as Liverpool and Everton managers

Benitez managed the Reds for six years but now holds Moyes's old spot in the Toffees' dugout

Benitez managed the Reds for six years but now holds Moyes’s old spot in the Toffees’ dugout

As if the Red and Blue rivalry didn’t already generate enough tension to dominate the city of Liverpool, the managers had to inflame it more through snide digs in the press. 

Benitez’s appointment to take charge at Goodison this summer was met with outrage and surrounded in controversy – and surprisingly not from the Red side of town – which was rooted in his Anfield antics.

The Spaniard has not been a fan favourite amongst the Toffees since called Everton a ‘small club’ as Liverpool manager following a 0-0 Merseyside Derby in 2007. 

The Spaniard infamously referred to Everton as a 'small club' following a goalless draw

In response to Benitez's comment, Moyes claimed his side did 'things with dignity and style'

The former Liverpool and Everton bosses feud consisted of snide digs at the other in the media 

It cannot be forgotten that the comment was a clear dig at an Everton side who were under Moyes’s tenure at the time. 

Benitez reacted to a second successive draw with Everton by accusing his rivals of negative tactics and insinuating that the goalless draw was a reflection of the ‘small-club mentality’ at Goodison.

Moyes refused to be drawn into a feud but couldn’t resist a veiled insult, responding that ‘Everton do things with dignity and style’ – clearly insinuating Liverpool did not.

Although the rivalry was notched up a level after the 2007 derby, it was clear from the offset the two managers weren’t going to have a closely bonded relationship. 

When Moyes took charge of the Toffees in 2002, then-Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier invited him out for a meal which saw the pair forge a friendship that survived the bitterness bred by the football-mad city. 

Benitez's predecessor Gerard Houllier (right) had forged an unlikely friendship with Moyes

Benitez’s predecessor Gerard Houllier (right) had forged an unlikely friendship with Moyes

Moyes sought to continue the tradition and extended the same courtesy to Benitez upon his arrival at Anfield in 2004. 

But the Reds boss never took the offer up and a cool distance has existed between the two ever since. 

The pair spent six years in the dugouts on opposite sides of Stanley Park, with Moyes’s 11-year stay at Everton encompassing the entirety of Benitez’s six years at Anfield. 

The overlap in tenures created a total of 14 battles between the pair and although Moyes drew first blood in their initial meeting, it was Benitez who emerged victorious overall in the sparring-match saga. 

The Spaniard and the Scot met on a total of 14 occasions during their Merseyside tenures

The former Everton manager emerged victorious in their first sparring match in 2004

The former Everton manager emerged victorious in their first sparring match in 2004

But it was Benitez who triumphed overall with Liverpool winning eight of their clashes

But it was Benitez who triumphed overall with Liverpool winning eight of their clashes

Liverpool triumphed in eight of the local tussles compared to Everton’s tally of just three – all at Goodison.

The duo’s Merseyside melee’s came to an end when Benitez left Liverpool in 2010 but the feud was reignited as the two clashed once again, this time with the Spaniard in charge at Stamford Bridge. 

As Everton prepared to host Chelsea with Benitez at the helm in the Premier League in December 2012, Moyes couldn’t resist referring back to his ‘small club’ dig. 

Heading into the clash, Everton sat in fifth just edged out of the top four by Tottenham and only two points off Chelsea in third.

Benitez returned to the Premier League in 2012 and enjoyed a successful season at Chelsea

Benitez returned to the Premier League in 2012 and enjoyed a successful season at Chelsea

As Chelsea boss, Benitez guided the north London blues to a win over Moyes's Everton

As Chelsea boss, Benitez guided the north London blues to a win over Moyes’s Everton

‘You wouldn’t say Everton are a club that are up and down now. I remember my first four or five years when we might finish seventh or eighth one year, 15th or 16th the next,’ he said ahead of the fixture, via The Express.

‘We were a bit like that. I don’t think you see Everton like that any more.’

Ahead of the fixture, Chelsea hasn’t won at Goodison since April 2008 but Benitez took the honours over Moyes once again as his side ended their hoodoo with a 2-1 win.

The rivals once again found themselves on either side of a northern derby in 2016, this time with Moyes in charge at Sunderland and Benitez heading up a Newcastle rescue mission. 

During their spell in the North East, Moyes admitted that he and the 61-year-old had had their ‘ups and downs’ but insisted he had a lot of respect for the former Real Madrid boss. 

‘Myself and Rafa have been against each other quite a lot,’ said Moyes, touching upon their Merseyside rivalry, via the Sunderland Echo.

‘Rafa had a great team at Liverpool of Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Pepe Reina etc – it was some team – but Everton were always competing and trying to challenge them.

Jamie Carragher (left), Xabi Alonso (centre) and Steven Gerrard (right) played under Benitez

Jamie Carragher (left), Xabi Alonso (centre) and Steven Gerrard (right) played under Benitez

‘We always tried to do the best we could to try to make it.’

But despite the niceties, the then Black Cat boss couldn’t help but end on a bitter note, comparing the success of the Reds and Blues and their finances.

‘In my last two years at Everton we finished above Liverpool twice in a row, and that was really important in the city,’ he said.

‘By that time Rafa wasn’t in charge, but we finished above them even though we didn’t have the level of finance that they had.’

But they were unable to renew their rivalry in the North East as they never played out a derby together during their tenures. 

Moyes was appointed as Sunderland manager in July, missing out on the Tyne-Wear relegation battle in March which failed to produce an outright victor and finished in a 1-1 draw.

Newcastle were then relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2015-16 season before Moyes’s arrival at the Stadium of Light. 

Benitez's Newcastle were relegated at the end of the 215/16 season after Sunderland beat Everton 3-0

Moyes took charge of the Black Cats in July 2003, missing out on the chance to face Benitez again

The rivals faced each other in another northern derby as Newcastle and Sunderland bosses

The Magpies were promoted back to the top-flight under Benitez 348 days after relegation

The Magpies were promoted back to the top-flight under Benitez 348 days after relegation

But ironically, it had been Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland who sent their local rivals down after winning 3-0 against Everton in their penultimate match. 

Moyes and Benitez have met a total of 17 times in their history in charge of various domestic sides, with the Spaniard victorious in 11 compared to the Scot’s three.

And Benitez seemingly won another one over Moyes this summer. He was reportedly in contention for the Toffees job but Benitez saw off all competition – and backlash – to secure the position.  

Perhaps it was Benitez’s greater achievements during his spell on Merseyside that edged him into the role ahead of the former Toffees boss. 

The former Napoli boss loaded Liverpool’s trophy cabinet with a Champions League, the UEFA Cup, the UEFA Supercup and the English Super Cup in his six years at the club. 

The Spanish manager enjoyed success with the Reds, winning their fifth Champions League

The Spanish manager enjoyed success with the Reds, winning their fifth Champions League

While, Moyes, in an extra five years, won a grand total of nothing, leaving Everton’s cabinet in desperate need of dusting.

But Benitez shouldn’t head into this weekend’s fixture expecting the walk in the park he grew accustomed to at Anfield as Moyes has transformed the Hammers into a formidable side. 

Moyes went from Sir Alex Ferguson’s ‘chosen one’ at Manchester United to a flop, leaving Old Trafford with his tail between his legs. 

But he has rediscovered his mojo at the Olympic Stadium, earning the title of ‘Moyesiah’ among the Hammers’ fans. 

Despite arriving under a hostile atmosphere, Benitez has settled into life at Goodison earning the Blues a fifth-place spot

The Scottish manager earned the title of 'Moyesiah' at West ham after leading them to European football last season

They will face each other again this weekend but this time Benitez will be in the Blues’ hotseat

West Ham parted company with Moyes in 2018, after he had successfully completed another rescue mission to keep them in the top-flight.

But in his second spell at the club, the Hammers are reaping the rewards of a European campaign after a sixth-placed finish last season on the back of a club-record 65 Premier League points.

West Ham have won three of their opening seven games, just one less than Benitez’s Blues and although they sit ninth in the table, they are only three points off Everton meaning a win at the weekend could see them leapfrog the Toffees on goal difference. 

As Moyes clings on to the coattails of Benitez once again we could see the new era of the pair’s rivalry begin to embroil on Merseyside, on a rare occasions that the Red side will be hoping for a Moyes win over a Benitez one. 

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