SPANISH SOCCER

Rafa Benítez confirmed as the new coach of Real Madrid

The 55-year-old Madrileño replaces Carlos Ancelotti, who was fired last week

Rafa Benítez, pictured outside Real’s training ground.
Rafa Benítez, pictured outside Real’s training ground.real madrid

Real Madrid soccer club presented Rafael Benítez as its new coach on Wednesday. The 55-year-old Madrileño will make his first appearance in the role at midday today at the club’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium in the Spanish capital. His hiring as Carlo Ancelotti’s replacement was pushed through with the backing of the club’s corporate general manager, José Ángel Sánchez. The president of Real Madrid, Florentino Pérez, gave approval to the deal.

Benítez will arrive in Madrid after leaving Italian club Napoli fifth in the league, out of the Champions League slots, and after eventful spells at Chelsea and Inter. The periods when he was at the helm of Valencia and Liverpool, which saw him win two leagues and two Champions Leagues between 2001 and 2010, now seem like distant memories.

The periods when Benítez was at the helm of Valencia and Liverpool now seem like distant memories

Ancelotti, who delivered Real its long-awaited 10th Champions League win in 2014, was fired from the club last week by Florentino Pérez. According to the press, the most likely cause for the decision was the team’s lack of physical preparation under his reign. The club itself has leaked a secret report from Doctor Jesús Olmo criticizing the coach on that issue.

Other Real sources claim that the report does not exist, and that Pérez found less-scientific reasons to throw him out. The first, that Ancelotti never found favor among the president’s closest colleagues, and the second, that he was never a “club man,” having exposed the failings of Pérez’s sporting strategy, in particular by exposing the weaknesses of player Gareth Bale and sowing doubts about the quality of Lucas Silva and Asier Illarramendi.

Benítez will be expected to achieve what his predecessor failed to do – and reestablishing Bale as a key part of the project will be his first mission. Club sources say the new coach will not be given greater powers than Ancelotti, meaning that he will not have a say when it comes to strategy. The last word when it comes to signings will be that of the president, as has been the case since 2013.