Rafa Benitez has discussed a number of Real Madrid players, including Karim Benzema and Keylor Navas, and Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano.
“I’m not surprised by Navas’ high level. He’s made great saves and I already knew him from Albacete,” he said of the goalkeeper, who looked surplus to requirements as Madrid chased David De Gea.
“He’s a very good professional. He uses his head. His wife is a very positive influence on him. I told him not to worry when his move to Manchester United was cut short.
“I have a good relationship with Iker Casillas, but we have Keylor and Kiko Casilla. My duty is to be happy and content with my team.
“We’ve recovered the best Benzema, whom many people were criticising. We’re taking it slowly because we know we have to take care of him.
“We know why we’ve been taking him off. We can’t control what happens with him when he’s in the hands of the national team Coach.
“The only one guaranteed in the XI is Ronaldo, the others have to compete. Casemiro listens a lot, has great skill, but there’s a lot of competition.
“One of the first things I did when I got to Madrid was ask about the possibility of bringing him here.
“Madrid is the highest level. I want Jese to do very well, to have quality, and at the same time there’s the luck and the difficult of playing for Madrid.
“I look at the best XI, not whether or not they were home grown in Madrid. We have to have the best players, and then look at the passports. If we can develop them ourselves, even better.”
Benitez concluded by explaining his relationship with a Barcelona player, Mascherano, a former Liverpool colleague who recently spoke warmly of his former boss.
“I spoke to him recently and we both know we’re rivals, but that doesn’t affect the respect and affection we share,” Benitez noted.
“While at Liverpool I went to talk to him and convinced him by talking about football using stones from a vase and a table centrepiece. He wasn’t playing for West Ham reserves then, which is amazing.
“I was on the verge of signing him for Napoli and for Inter.”