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The 61-year-old Spaniard has signed a three-year deal and succeeds Carlo Ancelotti, who resigned in early June to return to Real Madrid.

“I am delighted to be joining Everton,” said Benitez.

“I believe this is a club that is going places. I’m determined to play a big part in helping this great club achieve its ambitions.”

Benitez last managed in the Premier League at Newcastle United before leaving in June 2019.

He moved to China to coach Dalian Professional FC and left them in January after 18 months in charge.

“Rafa impressed us greatly with his knowledge and experience but, above all, the passion and hunger he showed to join our club,” said Everton majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri.

“We are appointing Rafa because we believe he will bring success to our club and to Evertonians. To put it simply – we need to be competing at the top end of the league and to be winning trophies.

“Rafa is a proven winner with huge experience in coaching internationally and we have secured the best man to achieve that for us.”

In a historic and controversial move, Benitez joins William Edward Barclay, who was part of the original foundation of Everton in the 1890s and later the breakaway Liverpool club, as the only men to cross the city divide to manage both clubs.

Before he signed the prospect of him managing the club had brought a mixed reaction from Everton fans, with then-Liverpool boss Benitez causing a furore by calling the Blues a “small club” following a goalless derby at Anfield in February 2007.

Benitez insisted he made “a mistake” and was referring to the approach of David Moyes’ team rather than Everton as a club, but his remarks have not been forgotten by many on the blue half of Merseyside.

Several banners were hung up outside Goodison Park protesting at Everton’s move for Benitez, while Merseyside Police are investigating a banner reading “We Know Where You Live – Don’t Sign” aimed at Benitez – although it was actually left outside the wrong house.

Former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo was the early favourite after interest from Everton but Benitez had been in pole position for a fortnight after staging several rounds of talks.

Benitez, who has kept a home in the area even after leaving Liverpool in 2010, was keen to return to the Premier League after leaving Newcastle United in summer 2019 before a spell at Chinese Super League club Dalian.

Benitez is no stranger to walking into a potentially hostile environment after the reception he received when he took over as Chelsea’s interim manager in November 2012 following a long, intense rivalry when he was in charge of Liverpool.

The Spaniard was roundly jeered when he took charge for his first game at home to Manchester City at Stamford Bridge – but was a resounding success, winning the Europa League and guiding them to third place in the Premier League.

The former Napoli and Real Madrid boss joins an Everton side that finished 10th in the Premier League under Ancelotti last season.

Everton begin their 2021-22 season at home to Southampton on 14 August.

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