Steven Gerrard has told ESPN it was “never a possibility” that he would leave his job as Rangers manager to take charge of Everton, but admits he was not surprised by Rafael Benitez’s decision to move to Goodison Park following Carlo Ancelotti’s departure for Real Madrid.
Former Liverpool captain Gerrard will go head-to-head with Ancelotti at Ibrox on Sunday as Real travel to Glasgow to face Rangers in a preseason friendly to mark the Scottish champions’ 150th anniversary.
Ancelotti’s surprise exit from Everton at the end of last season after just 18 months in charge initially prompted speculation linking Gerrard with a return to his home city as the Italian’s successor after guiding Rangers to their first league title in 10 years.
But, while the 41-year-old said that managing Everton was, and will always be, a non-starter, he told ESPN in an exclusive interview that he understands Benitez’s decision to manage the club, despite his six-year spell in charge of Liverpool between 2004-2010.
“Rafa wasn’t born in the city, he’s not a red through-and-through and he never played against Everton for 20 years and competed against them, so I think it’s a very different situation [to mine],” Gerrard said.
“Rafa is his own man and will make his own professional decisions, so there’s no surprise that he wanted to get back in the Premier League at a big club and have the opportunity to compete against all the top teams in the league, so I wasn’t very shocked and surprised at all in all honesty.
“I was very shocked and surprised that my name was linked to the job. I don’t know where it came from, whether it was paper talk or if there was any truth in it, I’m not sure.
“[Managing Everton] is never a possibility as far as I’m concerned.”
Gerrard said he is determined to make the most of his chance to tap into Ancelotti’s knowledge and experience during Sunday’s game.
“I must admit, it was a surprise [when Carlo left Everton], but I’m not complaining,” Gerrard said. “He was the manager at my big rivals and was doing a superb job — he’s one of the best managers in the world he has been for some time.
“I’ve experienced playing against him and it will be an absolute pleasure to share a touchline with him and to try and learn and tap into his knowledge if I get the opportunity because he is someone I have looked up to for a long time.
“I have watched a lot of footage of him as a player as well and what he has given to this sport is incredible. He’s a winner as a player and a manager, so it will be a pleasure to have him at Ibrox.”
Gerrard, meanwhile, said he was unaware of Ancelotti’s attempt to sign him for AC Milan as a player until after his playing career came to an end.
“Liverpool never brought that to me, so they must have kept that a secret,” he said. “I did actually see the interview that [Ancelotti] did on that and it was very flattering and very humbling for sure.
“I was very happy at Liverpool. There was no way any team in the world would have got me away from there at that time, going into the peak years of my career from a personal point of view and I was really happy and content to try to be successful at Liverpool but when a name like Carlo Ancelotti or AC Milan talk about wanting you as a player, it is certainly very flattering.”