It was perhaps the least well-kept secret in international #Football but Rafa Benitez has confirmed the speculation was accurate, by becoming the latest manager at the Spanish giants, Real Madrid. The 55-year-old ex-#Liverpool boss has put pen to paper on a three-year contract, after leaving Italian side Napoli at the end of their season in Italy. He has already made his intentions clear, with trophies high on the agenda from the very beginning and even shared a few comments regarding the unsettled Raheem Sterling at his press conference.
Poor ending to Napoli's season
Benitez completed his two-year stint with Serie A side, Napoli, after they had played their last league fixture of the season. Sadly for a man who prefers to leave on a high, his final match in charge was a hugely disappointing 4-2 home defeat against Lazio. That result denied them a Champions League place and combined with Fiorentina's victory on the final day, left Napoli back in fifth place overall.
Previous time at Real
That is all in the past now though for the Madrid-born man, who will renew acquaintances at a club he has coached at the youth levels and been assistant manager to the first team at in the past.
Since those early days in his management career, Benitez has subsequently enjoyed Champions League success with Liverpool and taken the Reds to a second (losing) final.
Real will also seek to draw on the knowledge that helped 'Rafa' to guide Valencia to two La Liga titles in 2002 and 2004, in addition to a UEFA Cup success. Benitez repeated the feat of winning Europe's second-string trophy (re-named the Europa League by then) with Chelsea in 2013.
Ancelotti not successful enough
That knack of winning trophies could prove crucial if he is to continue to gain the support of his employers. Carlo Ancelotti was dismissed after a season where Real finished 'only' as runners-up in La Liga to Barcelona. They had also missed out on the Spanish title in the previous campaign, when local rivals Atletico proved too strong over 38 matches. The Italian's triumph to win their tenth Champions League trophy last season, proved to be a mere forestalment for his ultimate departure from the club.
At his news conference Benitez stated that he was looking for Real to play "quality football," in addition to the obligatory quest for more silverware. Given Sterling's uncertain future at his old club Liverpool, he was questioned on his thoughts about the England international and confirmed his admiration for the player. He would not be drawn on the subject further though given that Sterling is "not one of our players."
Instead, he will be keen to ensure that the expensively assembled players currently at his disposal are all pulling in the right direction. #Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, Luka Modric and the rest are all fine individuals in their own right, but he needs to get them to 'gel' together as a consistent outfit.
Not popular in pollHe is also not certain to be a hit with the Real fans, given a recent local newspaper poll that suggested as many as 44% wanted Ancelotti to remain in charge next season. Benitez received just 8% of the vote, as fourth choice in the survey. His previous defensively-oriented approach to football seems to have stuck in many fans' minds, in contrast to the 'ole' style they much prefer.