Real Madrid have never been afraid to dismiss a manager if they feel things are headed south. Rafael Benitez had put together a stunning career in order to make it back to the Santiago Bernabeu, where it all started, winning the league at Valencia and the Champions League with Liverpool. It all fell apart in rapid time at Real Madrid though, and it’s something he still feels frustrated about.
Los Blancos lost 5-0 to Barcelona in the first El Clasico of the season, and were then kicked out of the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player in Denis Cheryshev against Alcorcon. Speaking to Cadena SER, Benitez explained that not only was it not his fault, but that he was not given a fair shot.
“In my time at Real Madrid they didn’t let us win. We were first in the Champions League. In the Champions League that Madrid wins, we did our job. In the Cup they eliminated us due to an administrative error with Cheryshev. I warned them three times, and even so an administrative error is made. Then it seemed that it was my fault, because I was gone. The team was physically superior to the rivals. When I left, I was 2 points behind Barcelona with one game less. Two months later they were twelve points behind of Barcelona.”
In his eyes, he was left to clear up the mess left for him by the club. Once he arrived, he pointed the finger at the players for destabilising the atmosphere by leaking stories to the media.
“When we arrived in Madrid, Ancelotti had just left, who had a very good relationship with the players, and it seemed that we were arriving with a whip. There was an unfavourable environment: the departure of Casillas, Keylor Navas, the arrest of Benzema… There were complicated situations.”
“And when everything gets difficult, who pays? Me. Cristiano, knowing what he was like, you had to guide him. The problem is when you have to guide seven of them, some don’t play, they aren’t happy. And they go to the media to leak. The one who is on the bench doubts and the one who is in the stands is a problem. And when you take it to the media, it is something else. Did I lack support at the club? What is said is one thing and what is done is another.”
Benitez cites the case of Cheryshev, but it was still he who selected the Russian winger. Equally while Benitez might have a point that he was sacked hastily, it seems clear his relations with the dressing room were broken. Each relationship is two-sided, and many would point to the fact that keeping players on the bench happy is a key part of his job.