Super Eagles attacking midfielder Alex Iwobi has revealed that he was told by former Everton manager Rafael Benitez that he was not good enough for the Toffees during last season, urging him to leave Goodison Park.
But the arrival of Frank Lampard has helped transform his career and has now become an integral part of the team.
Iwobi struggled to find playing time under Benitez, as the ex-Everton manager told him to leave in the January transfer window if wants to play.
“He told me I should leave Everton. I said I’d rather stay and fight for my place, and take my chances when they come. I was told by him that I wasn’t good enough, but I wanted to stay and showcase my ability. I’m delighted I have done that,” Iwobi told Liverpool Echo.
“It felt like everyone wanted me to go,” Iwobi claimed. “They said, ‘If you want to play football, you would be better off on loan’. It was like, ‘You are not in our plans, try to prove yourself elsewhere. I said I would rather take my chances and stay. I felt I had something to give and wanted to show my ability.”
The Nigerian made just five starts and four late substitute appearances by the start of November as he fell out of favour under Benitez. Those months before Lampard’s arrival was a tough period for Iwobi in particular, with the former Arsenal man often coming in for criticism as the Toffees struggled.
“I can deal with negativity much better now that I have grown up,” Iwobi said. “When I was younger, I didn’t know how to handle those things. I completely switched off from football, I want my own space and thoughts, I don’t like to talk or have someone telling me what to do.
“I probably shouldn’t be saying this. but I would play football with my friends, especially when I wasn’t in the team. Little games, maybe twice a week, just to enjoy it. I never lost my love for football, even though I saw all the negativity.”
The former Arsenal playmaker has now transformed into an energetic player in Lampard’s midfield with renewed confidence and he is now among the club’s top performers week in and week out.
The 26-year-old has featured prominently this season providing five assists in 14 league games in 2022/23 season.