Rafa Benitez speaks to the media. Picture: Everton FC/ Youtube
Here are the main talking points from the press conference.
Rodriguez saga rumbles on
Another week, more uncertainty over James Rodriguez’s future.
A cryptic tweet in Spanish that translated into English as Atletico Madrid’s slogan and a Twitch broadcast admitting he didn’t even know who Everton were playing fuelled further speculation the attacking midfielder is set to depart.
Benitez has reportedly told Rodriguez he is not part of his plans.
But with only 11 days until the transfer window closes, the Spaniard again refused to give any indication of whether the former Real Madrid star will stay at Goodison or be offloaded.
Benitez said: “We have until the end of August and there will be a lot of speculation.
“We have to keep working with the players that are here and that’s the only thing I can say.
“Until August 31, he is in my plans.
“I can understand people want to know everything but the situation is that he’s our player until August 31.
“He was not available last week or this week but hopefully he will be fine by the next week.
“Then we can carry on with training sessions and see what happens until the end of the transfer window.
Kean future unclear
There’s also been plenty of talk about whether Moise Kean is in Benitez’s plans.
The striker scored 17 goals on loan at Paris Saint-Germain last season and has been linked with a move back to Italy.
Again, Benitez didn’t give much away about Kean except he’s back training after missing the victory over Southampton.
He said: “Until August 31, we have to make sure the players give everything.
“After that, we will know exactly what we have in our squad and can concentrate on that.
“At the moment, he has been training and is another option we have up front.
“I’m happy with the idea that he can give us a hand if necessary.”
The announcement that Andy Lonergan has arrived as back-up keeper came as a curveball.
But in terms of first-team players, only Demarai Gray (Bayer Leverkusen), Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace) and Asmir Begovic (Bournemouth) have arrived this summer.
Benitez is still hopeful of making a few additions before the window shuts.
The former Inter Milan boss said: “We know that it’s much better to have the players early and you can work with them.
“Football now, it is what it is. We have the transfer window open and we have to cope with that.
“If we have new additions that can improve the team and strengthen the squad, I would be happy. In the meantime, we have to make sure that the players here give everything.
“They understand what we’re trying to do and I’m happy with that because they did really well the other day. Hopefully, it will be the same in the next game.”
Everton had five players miss the defeat of Southampton because they were in isolation in accordance with COVID-19 protocol.
Benitez admits that the Blues are still without certain players due to coronavirus rules.
He said: “We still have some issues. It’s not just two or three days [players are absent for].
“Moise Kean is coming back so we have new faces and still have some problems.
“I said the other day, I didn’t give the names but you will know the names better than me.
“Moise Kean is one that is coming back.
“We have the players separated and encourage the players to have the vaccine. We have social distancing, masks every day and encourage these things.
“The problem now is you can go outside [the football environment] and see a lot of people and they don’t have any rules at the moment.
“We have to try to manage the best way possible. We have tests every day but you cannot stop the virus around here or anywhere.”
Elland Road atmosphere
Everton’s trip to Leeds will be the first Premier League game at full capacity to take place Elland Road in 16 years.
A white-hot atmosphere is expected, with the home fans likely to be raucous throughout the game.
Benitez is wary that Everton will be met with hostility - but believes his troops can handle the pressure.
“The players have experience,” he added.
“They know the environment and the pressure but it is part of your job to know that.
“It is much better to play in front of the fans - even if it is away because it’s another opportunity to show your level.
“I’m happy and I’m sure the players are happy with that.”