Rafael Benítez tight-lipped over Lucas Digne’s omission from Everton squad | Everton

Rafael Benítez has told Lucas Digne that the team come first but refused to elaborate on why the Everton full-back was dropped for Monday’s home win against Arsenal.

The France international was omitted from the squad when Everton recorded their first win in nine games and Benitez admitted his only senior left-back was not guaranteed to return at Crystal Palace on Sunday despite being fit.

“It is clear – the manager decides,” Benítez replied when asked about Digne’s absence. “He has been training today and we will see tomorrow if he is available or not. We need all the players around because that increases the competition, but at the same time everyone has to be focused and realise the priority has to be the team. What he has to do is ensure he continues working hard and the team is ahead of any individual.”

Digne has used social media to play down reports of a falling out with the Everton manager. Benítez refused to comment on claims the pair argued over the full-back’s more defensive role this season.

“Normally when you have conversations with players they are private conversations and you have to keep them private,” he said. “The only thing I can say is he’s been training and we have to decide tomorrow if he’s available or not. I cannot comment any more because we are talking about something else when we have just beaten Arsenal the way we did and we have Crystal Palace coming.”

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Benítez has insisted his January transfer plans will not be disrupted by an exodus of the recruitment staff. After Marcel Brands’ exit as director of football on Sunday, Grétar Steinsson, the head of recruitment and development – who was appointed by Brands – and Dan Purdy, manager of scouting and operations, have decided to leave.

“The club is reviewing the structure and in the end they will make a decision on the way we want to move forward,” Benítez said. “But we cannot stop anyway. The scouting department has been working on names for a while and we have a lot of contacts, and we know more or less what we are looking for. I’m sure the owner is already working on possibilities to improve the squad.”

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