Sylvain Distin relishing tough tests
Sylvain Distin has said in the Liverpool Echo that Everton’s determination to qualify for Europe has been strengthened by pre-season clashes with Juventus and Real Madrid.
Everton have not played in Europe since reaching the Europa League’s last 32 in 2010.
They were in the race for a Champions League spot for much of last season, but missed out on a place in Europe altogether after finishing sixth in the Premier League.
The club have ambitions of returning to Europe under new manager Martinez, who succeeded David Moyes at the beginning of June.
Chairman Bill Kenwright revealed after the appointment that Martinez had promised to deliver Champions League football at Goodison Park.
And Distin – who has played European football with Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Portsmouth as well as Everton – has had his appetite whetted.
The 35-year-old defender told the Liverpool Echo: “We don’t need to be reminded how good European football is. Every player wants to play in Europe.
“It’s amazing and when you see the last two games they’ve been fantastic. Even if it’s pre-season – it just whets your appetite.”
Everton were beaten by goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil in Los Angeles, but Distin feels that he and his team-mates matched their opponents.
And he is also keen for more encounters with the big names of the European game after a post-match encounter with former World Footballer of the Year Zinedine Zidane, now Real director of football.
“That was like a Champions League game,” Distin said. “You can’t find better competition than the two teams we’ve played so far. Unless you play against Spain or Brazil I don’t think you can get better than that.
“I even got the chance to shake hands with Zidane. I had to wait nearly 36 years to do that!
“I think the first half was very difficult for us. When you look at who we were facing; [Karim] Benzema, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Mesut] Ozil and Isco it was tough. In the second half, it was a bit better when they changed their side, although they still brought on quality replacements.
“It was a good experience for us and we can learn a lot from it. I don’t think we looked ridiculous. We gave them a fair challenge and it was a positive result in the end.
“It bodes well. Even if you don’t really look at the results in pre-season you do to a degree. You always want to win and not concede goals. But all together it was a good performance so we deserve credit. It’s just a beginning then.”