Five things new boss Benitez must do at Real Madrid


Rafael Benitez was unveiled at the Bernabeu this week as the man to inherit the Real Madrid post from Carlo Ancelotti.

It is incredible to think that just a year on from ‘La Decima’ and one of the most famous victories in the history of Real Madrid, the club is starting over with a clean slate.

Benitez talked of “completing a cycle” in coming back to Madrid following a distinguished career in La Liga as well as in England and Italy.

Given the position of strength that Barcelona have acquired this season, and the guarantee that Atletico Madrid will be strong again next season, Benitez has got a big task if he is going to return Real Madrid to the pinnacle of Spanish football in his first season.

As he implied in his opening press conference, time is not something he will be blessed with at the Bernabeu so Benitez must hit the ground running.

Barcelona, who are 1/3 at the time of writing with betfair to win the Champions League against Juventus this weekend, have assembled what could be another golden generation at the Nou Camp and it will be difficult to stop them from winning La Liga next season.

Here are five challenges in front of the new Real Madrid boss as he attempts to defy the odds.


Replacing Casillas

Casillas has been a magnificent servant to Madrid and to Spanish football but the time has surely come to replace the 34-year-old goalkeeper.

A constant in the Madrid setup for more than 15 years, Casillas’ performances have started to drop off. This was evident at the World Cup in Brazil and had been identified during the reign of Jose Mourinho at Madrid.

During the season just ended, Casillas’ relationship with the Madrid faithful threatened to become fractured beyond the point of repair, with both parties intimating that the time may be right to move on.

Casillas has since stated that he wants to remain at the Bernabeu for next season and fight for his place in the team, regardless of who arrives to challenge.

For Benitez, who has no allegiance to the long-serving goalkeeper, this is the right time to move on. The stories linking David de Gea with a move to Real Madrid have been circling for months and, by making the transfer happen quickly, the new Real boss can score a victory over his former nemesis in England, Manchester United.

Bale’s Future

After leaving a really strong impression in his first season at the club, Gareth Bale endured a nightmare second year in Spain.

The Welsh winger scored a fantastic goal in the Copa del Rey Final against Barcelona and was on target again in the Champions League final against Atletico to cap an impressive first season.

He proved that his big-money transfer was justified and looked at home in the Madrid shirt.

His failing last season was a defining symbol for Ancelotti. Bale, like Madrid, went downhill after Christmas and along with his drop in form went any hopes Real had of salvaging some silverware.

Bale’s performance against Juventus in the Champions League semi-final defeat portrayed a player that had lost confidence in himself. It is up to Benitez to help him find that confidence once more.

He can start with a quiet suggestion to the 25-year-old that his agent should keep his thoughts on Bale’s career at Madrid private and allow his client to get on with playing football.


Be the boss

A lot was made of Ancelotti’s failure to rotate his team during last season. The Italian seemed loath to leave out Bale, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Toni Kroos when they were fit.

Given that Real will expect to contend in each competition they enter domestically and in Europe, there is a need to manage the fitness and well-being of players with an entire season in mind.

Therefore it is vital that Benitez very quickly establishes himself as the man in charge at Real Madrid.

Ancelotti was criticised for having become too close to some of his superstars, the theory suggesting that by doing so he had lost some of his authority.

Real Madrid is a club bursting with some of the biggest egos in world football. Benitez needs to show that he can control and manipulate these egos for the greater good of the club at all times.


Managing Ronaldo

Ronaldo is the central figure in the Real Madrid story. Whether it has a happy-ending for Benitez at the Bernabeu will come down to whether or not he can harness the Portuguese correctly to get the maximum return.

Having scored 48 league goals last season, it is hard to question the input of Ronaldo but there appeared to be something amiss at times.

His relationship with Bale has been questioned repeatedly and there were signs during the season that all is not well between Madrid’s biggest stars.

Ronaldo’s individual brilliance is not a matter for debate but Benitez has to engineer the correct formula so that his star player will bring his team-mates along with him through the tough times next season.

Real Madrid need to present a united front and Benitez can only do that by having Ronaldo onside.

A New Approach

As a manager, the career of Rafa Benitez has been defined by his attention to detail.

He is meticulous in his preparation for each game and he routinely pours over the opposition, determined to find the means with which to get his team to victory.

Benitez routinely employs tactics that are specific to a single opponent. He thinks nothing of altering formation, style and personnel to nullify the threat posed against his side.

That is not always the Madrid ethos. A club where flair and attacking intent are often defining influences, Benitez is going to have to win over his squad and the club’s supporters to his way of doing things.

In doing so the margins are going to be thin. Victory and Benitez may thrive in his hometown, defeat playing football that would not be considered the “Real Madrid way” and his tenure could be short lived.

Benitez has a hugely talented squad at his disposal and he is likely to supplement it this summer but the 55-year-old will not be underestimating the scale of task he faces in loosening the grip of a sublimely talented Barcelona team on the Primera Liga crown.


06 2015
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