Rafael Benitez has accused Lucas Digne of prioritising his own interests above those of the Everton team after confirming the France international wants to leave.
Digne has not featured for Everton since the derby defeat by Liverpool on December 1st, and was left on the bench while Seamus Coleman deputised at left wing-back in Sunday's damaging 3-2 loss to Brighton. The 28-year-old has attracted interest from Newcastle and Chelsea in this window among others, although Benitez insists Everton, who have signed Ukraine international left back Vitaliy Mykolenko, have not received a firm offer.
Tensions between the Everton manager and Digne have been clear for some time, with the defender withdrawing through illness from a depleted squad that drew against Chelsea. Benitez went public with his frustrations on Friday when revealing Digne’s desire to leave Everton.
The Everton manager said: “It was very clear. I want to ask a question to every fan or former player. What would Peter Reid say to a player who doesn’t want to be there? It is simple. I had a couple of conversations with him, he told me what he thought. So what do you expect a manager to do when a player is thinking about leaving?”
Benitez did not give an explanation for why Digne wants to leave after 3½ years but claimed the player was more interested in his personal statistics than helping the team through a difficult period.
“We are professionals,” Benitez said. “We are paid big money to do our job, and if someone is happy or not happy it is up to you to perform in your job. They pay you big money to perform. You have to perform, you have to be available, you have to put your interests behind the interests of the club. Maybe the stats and priorities have changed and people think themselves ahead of other things.
“The team finished 10th last season and someone who is worried about their stats changes nothing for me. I don’t want to finish 10th. I’d like to be in a much better position; I am not stupid – I want to finish as high as possible. The club is growing and improving and we are creating a winning mentality for the future but it will take some time.
“In the meantime you need players who really want to be here ? We have to consider what we want to do in our future. Do we want to try and improve or just manage the egos and leave the team behind depending on the egos?”
Benitez made frequent references to Reid and said they were not a criticism of the club legend but an example of the winning mentality that needs rebuilding at Everton.
He said: “When I was talking about Peter Reid, I was talking about someone who cares, who was always pushing for the best from everyone on the pitch. That was the idea. So when I talk about that I am talking about myself also wanting everything from the players. When they do not do that, I can be upset.”