Benitez has won silverware at six different European clubs, and is still worshipped by fans at Valencia, Liverpool and Newcastle United.
Few in the game can match his list of honours: two La Liga titles, a Champions League, two UEFA Cup/Europa Leagues, a FIFA Club World Cup and many other domestic and continental trophies.
Now, after two weeks of negotiations and warding off approaches by several Italian clubs, Benitez has finally been named as the new Everton manager on a three-year deal.
What will the Liverpool fans think of him now? As a way to jog our collective memories, Planet Sport takes a look at some of his most iconic managerial moments so far.
The Miracle of Istanbul
Where else to start but the Ataturk Stadium? It remains, to this day, Benitez's finest hour, his only Champions League trophy and a triumph retrospectively attributed to his inspiring half-time team talk.
"Give yourself the chance to be heroes," he told his side, with the chorus of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' from defiant Liverpool fans audible even deep in the bowels of the stadium. "We have to fight. We owe something to the supporters. Don't let your heads drop. We are Liverpool. You are playing for Liverpool. Don't forget that."
Later, after a switch to 3-5-2, the introduction of Didi Hamann and advancing Steven Gerrard higher up the pitch, an apparently disastrous 3-0 deficit, to AC Milan, swiftly became 3-3.
Then goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek's heroics in the penalty shootout won Liverpool their fifth European Cup in the most incredible, unforgettable manner.
'These are facts'
Benitez is mostly inscrutable and gives little away in his press conferences, but just occasionally with a brief smile he gives a hint of his true feelings on some matter of controversy.
Occasionally, his guard drops completely and he astonishes us all.
His most famous moment was this - largely unprovoked - attack on Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United's alleged favourable treatment from referees during the 2008/09 season.
Benitez unfolded a piece of paper on which he had written a list of Ferguson's team's disciplinary lapses and, according to him, lenient treatment. He repeatedly and animatedly referred to 'facts'.
Liverpool were actually leading the title race at that time, but the pressure of his squabbles with the club's American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, seemed to come to the boil.
Chants of 'Rafa's cracking up!' were heard from opposition fans for months thereafter. Years later, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard criticised Benitez's decision to go public with his grievances. United went on to win that season's title by four points.
On another occasion, at the nadir of his disputes with Hicks and Gillett, Benitez infamously answered every probing question from the assembled media with the same line: "As always, I am focused on training and coaching my team."
It was seen as a response to a public call from owners to 'quit talking about new players'.
Valencia - at last
Long before boardroom disputes had become a regular occurrence for him, a fresh-faced, 42-year-old Benitez won La Liga for Valencia in his first season at the helm of a major club.
His 4-2-3-1 formation, a rarity at that time, and zonal marking system, saw Valencia concede a miserly 28 goals that season. They scored just 51 in the league campaign - winning 10 games by a 1-0 scoreline in all competitions.
It was Valencia's first league title in 30 years. Benitez's predecessor Hector Cuper had reached two successive Champions League finals and was well liked, but it was Benitez who converted a well-organised outfit into solid silverware.
Two seasons later, by the time he left for Liverpool, Benitez had added another La Liga title to the trophy cabinet at the Mestalla as well as the UEFA Cup, after which he was named UEFA Manager of the Year.
Benitez cut a far more war-torn figure by the time he arrived at Chelsea in November 2012. After long-running disputes with Liverpool's owners and a brutally brief spell at Inter Milan, he was then given the perilous title of 'interim manager' at Stamford Bridge.
Given his barely-suppressed loathing for Blues idol Jose Mourinho and a history of fiery encounters with Chelsea while at Liverpool, it's fair to say he was not warmly welcomed.
Early results did not improve his popularity and after a 2-0 win at Middlesbrough in late February, Benitez could keep his silence no longer, blasting Chelsea's board and the club's fans for not backing him.
He remained in post and secured a third-place finish in the Premier League after going unbeaten in their last 10 games.
What's more, Chelsea reached the Europa League final, with Benitez guiding them past Sparta Prague, Steaua Bucharest and Rubin Kazan en route to a showdown against Benfica at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Branislav Ivanovic's 89th minute winner sealed a 2-1 victory and David Luiz credited Benitez's half-time tactical changes for the victory.
It saw Chelsea become the first British side to win all three major European trophies. It was Benitez's second Europa League triumph and resuscitated his flagging reputation.
Never one to take on an easy task, Benitez shocked many within the game by joining Newcastle United in 2016. He had 10 games left to save the Magpies from relegation, and although that unenviable task proved beyond even him, the next two seasons would see him become the darling of Tyneside.
Newcastle won the Championship the following season, their defiant fans packing out away ends at Burton, Barnsley and Rotherham as they roared back to the top flight. The following season, they finished 10th, despite the lack of investment from deeply unpopular owner Mike Ashley.
The context of fans' unrest and repeated clashes with Ashley over new players put Benitez's achievements into context. He was trying to drive the club forward with the handbrake on.
Despite an awful start to 2018/19 (they didn't win a game until November 3), Benitez dragged them to a 13th-place finish, but no new contract was forthcoming.
He left with his head held high, telling the Toon Army, "Your support, your affection and your passion has been unbelievable to me."
Benitez has many merits and among them is his rarely-seen sense of humour.
One of the criticisms of his early years at Liverpool was his constant tinkering with his starting 11, to the extent that, by the occasion of a Champions League match with Bordeaux in October 2006, he had changed his line-up 99 games in succession.
With commentators and statisticians lining up to 'celebrate' (or perhaps criticise him for) reaching three figures, Benitez could barely suppress his glee at keeping the same team from the Reds' previous game, a 3-1 win over Aston Villa just three days previously.
Was it done deliberately? Typically, he wouldn't tell us.