So he has returned, Rafael Benitez’s imminent arrival at the club where it all began is sure to be fairy tale. Or is it? The seasoned veteran, whose management has spanned Valencia, Liverpool, and Napoli, to name a few, finds himself taking over from the now departed Carlo Ancelotti at one of Europe’s grandest clubs.
After leaving the Real Madrid Castilla team twenty years ago to achieve bigger and better things, Rafa’s return could be perceived as the tale of a hometown hero. On his journeys he has achieved for the most part, managing some of the continent’s elite teams, and managing the side that won ‘that’ final with Liverpool in 2005. However, a return to Real Madrid may seem more appealing than it really is. It is a divine but ruthless football institution.
Managers have been and gone from Real Madrid in similar fashion to that of King Henry XIII’s wives. At a first glance, a job at the Bernabeu may seem too good to be true, but in it’s prestige there are enormous expectations, and if you don’t deliver the trophies quickly, your head is well and truly on the line.
To any manager, the opportunity to manage a squad of galacticos is a dream come true. It’s like being a kid in a sweet shop. Yet with such quality players at your disposal, you simply must succeed. In fact many managers could be considered to have achieved. Ancelotti collected a Champions League trophy, a title the fans had been craving.
Yet despite delivering ‘la decima’ Ancelotti would be out the door in the next campaign after failing to gain silverware this time around. Whilst at many clubs managers will have time to stamp their authority, there can be no excuses at a Real side who will yet again have low odds to win the Primera Division according to the La Liga betting.
So what does this all mean for Benitez? Well, firstly he is a native of the Spanish capital, something that will be appreciated by the fans. He is also wary of what is expected more than most, having worked there in the past. He must be aware however that he is not working for any big club. Success is expected at Real Madrid, and he must understand that the stakes are very high.
Whatever he does at Real Madrid, it is difficult to say he will have drastically improved them. Should he bring more success than most he will be refining what is a club drenched in glory. You could say he is there to renew success rather than revolutionise a club that is in no state to be revolutionised.
It must not be forgotten that it has been a while since he was at the peak of his managerial powers, made clear to all after his unsuccessful spell at Napoli. In many ways he does indeed share some similarities to Ancelotti. He isn’t flashy, but purely focused. He is likely to command cohesiveness within the squad, and will be more concerned with the development of the unit of the team than whether Cristiano Ronaldo will break more La Liga records.
This could be good for the club but whether his mentality will fit the brutal demands of Florentino Pérez is another matter. The harsh reality is that as long as demands remain high at the club, the length of time managers are in charge is likely to remain short, unless the trophy cabinet is being added to on a regular basis.