Everton manager Rafael Benítez insisted he was not interested in succumbing to Lucas Digne’s arrogance and that the breakup of their relationship led the defender to leave.
France have not played a full-back since their Merseyside derby defeat at Liverpool on 1 December after being out with tactics and their role in the team.
He returned to the team as an unused substitute for last weekend’s loss at home to Brighton, but he has probably played his last game for the club.
Benitez suggested that the player was more interested in his individual stats than in doing the work required for the team and this was detrimental to his long-term plans to make the club more competitive.
“We are professionals, we are paid a hefty amount to do our job and if someone is not happy or not happy then it is (still) for you to perform in your work,” he said.
“You have to be available, you have to put your interests behind the interests of the club.
“The question is what does the team want or what does the team need and then we didn’t have that.
Do we want to try and improve or just manage the ego and leave the team behind?Everton Manager Rafael Benitez
“If you are not thinking about it then the priority is you and not the team.
“A team that finished 10th and someone worried about their stats doesn’t change anything for me.
“I don’t want to finish 10th, I want to be in a much better position, I’m not stupid. I want to finish as high as possible.
“The club is growing and improving and we are building a winning mindset for the future but it will take some time.
“Meanwhile 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 ego and leave the team behind?”
Benitez’s popularity at Goodison Park has never been particularly high as a former Liverpool manager, but when Digne sat on the bench for Sunday’s 3-2 home loss to Brighton, left-back Seamus Coleman was used. So, he had to face heavy criticism.
That game caused former Everton midfielder Peter Reid to tweet: “Major problems at Goodison Park, big concerns about football club’s direction.”
I didn’t take what Rafa said as a sarcasm. If didn’t want to play for Digne @ Everton And wanted to move, he would not have made the bench. coybee
— Peter Reid (@reed6peter) 7 January 2022
Benitez kept Reid, who played more than 150 times for the club during its successful period from the mid to late 1980s, as a reference point when it came to dealing with the situation.
Benitez said: “I had a few conversations with him (Digne), he told me what he thought. So what do you expect to do when a player is looking to leave?
“I want to ask a question to every fan or former player. What would Peter Reid say if a player told the manager that he didn’t want to be here?
“Will he be happy with this player? Will he support this player? Will the fans support this player?”
Chelsea, West Ham and Newcastle have all been linked with Digne, but Benitez said no club has made a formal offer – and it could be a problem if nothing happens before the end of the window.
“We need commitment, not questioning,” Benitez said ahead of FA Cup tie Will Hull.
“I’m not in charge of the conversation, but when someone is asking they have to commit themselves and say ‘I’ll buy, I’ll pay or I’ll make an obligation or something’.
But people talk and talk. I will tell you that I want to sign Haaland and Mbappe but I have to commit myself.
“I can make an inquiry and then you’ll say ‘Oh, they’re interested’ and that’s it. We’re interested but nothing concrete.
“If January 31 is here, we have to deal with a player who doesn’t want to be here.
“But what I can’t do is bring in players who don’t want to be here and prioritize players who aren’t interested.”