Rafael Benitez has returned to Real Madrid, Benitez embarked on his coaching adventure at the Santiago Bernebau as the B-Team manager from 1993 until 1995. Twenty years on the Spaniard has been prized with the task of galvanising a star studied Real Madrid. Rafael Benitez has signed a three year deal with Los Blancos, the former Liverpool manager will be well aware that his job will be on the line from day one. Carlo Ancelotti was Florentino Perez’s latest managerial victim, after guiding Real Madrid to the infamous ‘La Decima’, Perez yielded the axe on the Italian just a season after claiming the illusive tenth Champions League title. Perez’s obsession with short term success is clearly catching up with Real Madrid and has allowed arch rivals Barcelona to take the mantle of Spain’s best. If Benitez is to see out his three year contract he will join an illustrious list, only two of Real Madrid’s last 26 coaches have lasted three years (Mourinho and Del Bosque in his 3rd spell). Benitez will become Madrid’s eight coach in 10 years, a staggering return for a club the magnitude of Real Madrid.
The sacking of Carlo Ancelotti will baffle many football fans, the Italian has a remarkable managerial record, one which Rafael Benitez will be hugely envious of. Ancelotti was respected and adored by the Madrid players but ultimately due to Perez’s ruthless and cynical nature, failure to win a major competition usually means the end of the road, no matter how big the reputation and ego of the manger. Real Madrid have now won only one La Liga title in the last 7 years, that’s simply an embarrassing return for a club a size of Real Madrid.
Ancelotti’s side initially looked unstoppable, sweeping all beside them and conjuring up a 22 game winning streak in the autumn. However, Madrid finished the season with only the FIFA Club World Cup, a side filled with Galactico’s and international talent completely capitulated. With Benitez at the helm, Madrid will attempt to wrestle back domestic domination from bitter rivals Barcelona whilst looking to conquer Europe once again.
After an exceedingly positive debut season under Ancelotti, Madrid’s summer transfer business was quickly questioned, Angel Di Maria and Xabi Alonso two popular dressing room names were allowed to leave the club. Di Maria and Alonso were pivotal in Madrid’s double success, Florentino Perez however obsessed and driven with glamour signings brought in World Cup winner Toni Kroos and Colombian picture boy James Rodriguez in a bid to rekindle the splendid Galactico days. After another unsuccessful season and having to accept being second fiddle to Barcelona, Perez may go big again in the upcoming transfer window.
With Sami Khedira heading for the exit door, Lucas Silva and Asier Illarramendi haven’t yet proved to be shrewd signings. Madrid have been short in the central midfield area, the loss of Luka Modric at the pivotal stage of the season played a fundamental part in Madrid’s demise. Modric is the glue that binds the Galatico’s together, his absence put more pressure on Toni Kroos who was ever present in his debut season, the exertions of the World Cup caught up on Kroos and the German was clearly running on empty in the latter stages of the season. Paul Pogba and Marco Verratti have both been linked with a summer move to Real Madrid, Pogba and Verratti are two of the most sought after midfielders in world football. Club president Florentino Perez will do all he can to bring in more household names this summer.
One of Benitez’s biggest tasks will be to get the best out of record club signing Gareth Bale. The former Tottenham man cut an isolated figure at times this season, the Bernebau faithful became disgruntled with their side’s performances and Bale took the majority of the flack. After an outstanding debut season, Bale’s performances seemed to dwindle and as a result became an easy target and scapegoat due to his price tag. The constant criticism seemed to have a negative impact on the Welshman’s performances. With his confidence zapped, Bale has had to accept being Cristiano Ronaldo’s understudy, but reports are circulating that Rafael Benitez wants to build his Real Madrid side around Gareth Bale. A move which could well revitalize Bale but at the same time antagonize Ronaldo. However with question marks being constantly raised over Cristiano Ronaldo’s physical capabilities is it time the goalscoring phenomenon became a full time number 9. Ronaldo’s goalscoring exploits continue to amaze but his defensive naivety and selfish nature expose Real Madrid’s left hand side. It would be a bold move by Benitez to stand up to Ronaldo but a move which could benefit the balance of the Madrid team. The potential deployment of Ronaldo in a central attacking role would equally unsettle French forward Karim Benzema.
Madrid’s fickle fans have also berated club legend Iker Casillas on numerous occasions this season, in the pivotal home game against Valencia, Casillas stood up to the Madrid faithful and responded to the avalanche of abuse. David De Gea, is Perez’s chosen man prized with replacing the great Casillas, no agreement has been reached with Manchester United as of yet but it seems a forgone conclusion that De Gea will return to his beloved Spanish capital next season. The signing of De Gea could well spell the end for Casillas, but the legendary Spanish stopper will continue to battle with his understudy for the club and country post.
Benitez will be delighted to have landed his dream job but the reality is Benitez will have to prove to be an instant success to prevent his homecoming turning into a nightmare. Benitez has a lot of issues to address and potentially some big decisions to make in a bid to take Madrid back to the top of the footballing ladder. For many managers getting the opportunity to manage Real Madrid is the pinnacle but under Florentino Perez’s leadership it’s become more of a poisoned chalice, time will tell which way Rafael Benitez’s pendulum will swing.