Burnley's Dwight McNeil reacts to interest from Everton manager Rafa Benitez ahead of Premier League clash at Goodison Park

Dwight McNeil has made quite an impression on Everton manager Rafa Benitez.

Sunday, 12th September 2021, 10:25 pm
Dwight McNeil of Burnley celebrates after scoring their team's second goal during the Premier League match between Everton and Burnley at Goodison Park on March 13, 2021 in Liverpool, England.

The Spaniard has spoken very highly of the 21-year-old ahead of Monday's fixture at Goodison Park.

And the ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid boss isn't expected to quit in his pursuit of the Burnley winger after missing out this summer.

McNeil was a prime transfer target for the Toffees ahead of the 2021-22 Premier League campaign.

Rafael Benitez, Manager of Everton gives their side instructions during the Premier League match between Everton and Southampton at Goodison Park on August 14, 2021 in Liverpool, England.

The nine-time English champions — who added Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray to their ranks during the window — will continue to monitor the former England Under 21 international.

The speculation can be hard to ignore, admits McNeil, but he tries to surround himself in people who will help shield him from the noise.

He said: “Yeah, it can be, but I have good people around me. My agent is always on it, I’ve got my mum and dad.

"He [Matty McNeil] is good, we talked about it a lot. We went on holiday together this year so it’s good to talk to him.

Dwight McNeil of Burnley is challenged by Mason Holgate of Everton during the Premier League match between Everton and Burnley at Goodison Park on March 13, 2021 in Liverpool, England.

"He just told me the main thing is to concentrate on Burnley. At the time, I was a Burnley player and that’s all I need to worry about.”

Discounting covert scouting missions, Benitez has only seen McNeil in the flesh for 45 minutes.

The two-time La Liga winner with Valencia was in charge at St James's Park at the time during the 2018-19 campaign.

Newcastle United held a two-goal advantage at the break when McNeil was withdrawn and replaced by Robbie Brady.

But that counts for very little. Benitez has seen enough quality in the youngster to peak his interest ever since.

“It’s always nice when other clubs take notice, but the main thing is that everyone here rates me very highly, which is always nice," said McNeil.

"I’m still a Burnley player, nothing has changed. I’ve got to give my all, everything I have to Burnley.

"I’ve got a long term contract and I'm happy playing football. We said if something came in we’d look at it but nothing did. The main thing is I’m happy here – with the lads and the manager."

Benitez was in China, with Dalian Professional FC, when McNeil scored the best goal of his career so far on the surface nicknamed "The Grand Old Lady".

After turning Allan, and using Ben Godfrey's presence for cover, he swept the ball majestically past Jordan Pickford and into the top corner.

That was the seventh, and last, goal of his career so far. Now, heading into his 100th appearance in the top flight, he's determined to add more.

He said: "I’d say that’s my best goal for Burnley so far in my career. That was such a big game and that was my first goal away from home, so it was a nice one.

“For me personally I need a lot more, I know I need to impact games more and it’s just about doing that.

"I know my goal ratio is down on the position I play. I talk to my family about it and the coaches here about how I can improve it and try and get in better positions to score and create chances.

“I’ve got to push on here because I know there’s a lot to improve on. I’m still learning every day and aspiring to the player I want to be.

“I know I can do that and I want to do better in the future, getting the goals and getting the assists.”