Merseyside Police are investigating a “threatening” anti-Rafael 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’ – referring 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 today, Monday 28 June,” said a statement from Merseyside Police.
“At around 7am, it was reported that a banner made from bed sheets had been placed over a wall and bushes on a residential driveway, with wording which is thought to target football manager Rafa Benitez.”
There has been considerable opposition among some sections of Everton’s fanbase to the likelihood of Benitez becoming Carlo Ancelotti’s successor at Goodison Park.
Offensive banners have previously been put up at the stadium but this incident was close to Benitez’s home.
“This message has understandably caused some distress and worry for residents in the area,” said Detective Inspector Darren Taylor.
“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.
Benitez, who won the Champions League and FA Cup with Liverpool in 2005 and 2006, has emerged as the front-runner to replace Ancelotti, himself a three-time Champions League winner, who made a surprise return to Real Madrid four weeks ago.
Everton fans’ animosity towards the Spaniard were raised above the usual level reserved for a Reds boss ever since his “small club” jibe after a 2007 Merseyside derby, although he has since sought to clarify he was referring to their small team mentality in the game.
Another former Everton manager Sam Allardyce faced a significant level of opposition when he took over from Ronald Koeman in November 2017.
“I have seen there are a lot of Everton fans unhappy about the situation because of the rivalry between (Liverpool) the two clubs,” he told Sky Sports.
“The fans are on your side when you start winning, that is what it is all about.
“Rafa’s track record is very good. You can talk about the style of football that you play, first it is winning and then winning and playing well is the ultimate goal.
“The style of football is talked about so much, it overshadows what is more important, winning matches and finishing up the league to match the expectation and money spent.”