Rafael Benitez Profile
|Born||Apr 16, 1960|
Rafael ‘Rafa’ Benitez has been one of Europe’s most successful managers of the last 20 years, but things didn't work out for him after a shock move to the blue half of Merseyside.
A trophy winner at six different European clubs, and worshipped still by fans at Valencia, Liverpool and Newcastle United.
However, in June 2021 Benitez took the bold step to cross Stanley Park and join Liverpool's big city rivals Everton.
It is the second time Benitez has succeeded Carlo Ancelotti after he took over from the Italian at Real Madrid in 2015. There, like at many of his former clubs, he fell foul of disagreements with owners and board members.
It didn't work out for him at Goodison Park either, with the Spaniard lasting just over six months at the club before he was sacked following a run of just one win in 13 games.
He has never shied away from difficult, high-pressure assignments, and certainly hasn't succeeded everywhere - Inter Milan and Napoli fans will join the Everton faithful in not remembering his stints fondly.
However, 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.
His travels around the dugouts of Europe - and China - saw him eventually return to the Premier League, but after being hounded out of Everton by a furious set of fans, he's now available to take up a new project.
After attending university and having his playing career in Spain's lower leagues cut short by a knee injury, Benitez began his ascent up the coaching ladder in 1986.
He grabbed his chance at Real Madrid, where he'd played for the Aficionados (the C team). Benitez then worked his way up to the B team manager and briefly became Vicente del Bosque's assistant.
After a couple of false starts as boss of Real Valladolid and Osasuna, he led Extremadura to promotion to La Liga before then repeating the trick with Tenerife.
Big move to Valencia
His big break came in 2001 when Valencia took a chance on the then 41-year-old.
Three years later, when he left after falling out with the club's director of football, Rafa had won Los Murcielagos their first title for 31 years, another title two seasons later, as well as the UEFA Cup in 2004 courtesy of a 2-0 win over Marseille. A victory that secured the club's first major European honour for 24 years.
With Pablo Aimar as the fulcrum of the attack and, more importantly, Roberto Alaya and Santiago Canizares at the back, Valencia's first title was won despite scoring just 51 goals. It set out the stall for his reputation as a somewhat tactically cautious coach.
Big time at Liverpool
In June 2004, Liverpool, having let go of Gerard Houllier, pounced to snap up Benitez.
Although his first season was a humdrum one on the domestic front, in Europe, it was miraculous.
Then, unforgettably, Liverpool made their astounding comeback from 3-0 down against AC Milan in Istanbul.
Benitez was lauded for his now-famous half-time team talk, which was credited with inspiring the incredible second-half turnaround. "I don't have words to express what I feel at the moment," he said afterwards. "We tried to change things at half-time and said it would be different if we scored - and it was."
Similar Gerrard-inspired comeback heroics saw them beat West Ham the following season in a raucous FA Cup final at the Millennium Stadium, which ended 3-3 before they won on penalties.
They finished third in the Premier League and matched that in 2006/07, a season blighted by apparent disagreements with new American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Although Benitez's side again reached the Champions League final, Milan avenged their horror collapse in Istanbul by winning 2-1.
Bar another deep run in the Champions League, the following season was relatively unsuccessful, but it was in 2008/09 when Benitez got closest to winning that Holy Grail for Liverpool fans - a first ever Premier League title.
This was the season of his 'facts' rant, when Benitez was ridiculed for a largely unprovoked rant at Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United, during which he repeatedly and animatedly talked about 'facts'.
The 'Rafa's cracking up!' chants, rumours of him being sacked that were so strong betting was suspended. Liverpool claimed two 4-4 draws in one week (against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final, second leg and at home to Arsenal with Andre Arshavin scoring all four) but ultimately only a runners-up spot four points behind Manchester United.
That was as good as it got for Benitez at Anfield as 2009/10 fizzled out with, at one point, a run of just one win in 11 games, an FA Cup exit to Reading and a limp group-stage exit from the Champions League.
Off to Inter Milan
It was a vacancy left by his old dugout foe Jose Mourinho that gave Benitez his next opportunity. Inter had just won four scudetti in a row and, the previous season, the treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League.
As at Anfield, rancour with the club's hierarchy was to prove a feature of the manager's time at the Giuseppe Meazza.
Reportedly, Inter's all-star dressing room remained loyal to Mourinho. Despite winning the FIFA Club World Cup in December, Benitez was fired five days later. He'd lasted just six months.
Benitez had more hostility to contend with upon arrival at his next assignment back in England. He was appointed as 'interim manager' at Chelsea in November 2012 after Roberto Di Matteo's sacking just six months after he'd won them the Champions League.
For the second job in a row, Benitez's known distaste for Mourinho made him unpopular at a club where the Portuguese was considered a legend.
Chelsea fans were certainly not won over by initial underwhelming results and in late February (with 'interim' still in his job title, something he resented) he announced he would be leaving at the end of the season.
By then, though, the fans' low opinion of him would be rather altered.
Chelsea had completed the set of European trophies by winning the Europa League, beating Benfica 2-1 thanks to Branislav Ivanovic's injury time goal. By winning six of their last seven league games, they had also finished third.
Italian return at Napoli
Benitez was out of work for an entire eight days before starting his next role, back in Serie A at Napoli. They had finished second the previous season and Benitez was well backed by the signings of Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Callejon and Raul Albiol.
However, tangible success proved elusive in his two seasons. They won the 2014 Coppa Italia by defeating Fiorentina 3-1 and beat Juventus in the Supercoppa, but defeat in the Champions League qualifying round to Athletic Bilbao and a hideous Europa League semi-final loss to Dnipro were rather less positive.
In Benitez's final game in charge they had to beat Lazio to seal qualification for the Champions League. After fighting back from two goals down, Lazio went down to 10 men and Napoli were awarded a penalty. However, Higuain launched it over the bar. Napoli then received a red card of their own and conceded two late goals to lose 4-2.
They finished fifth and Benitez, who had already publicly stated his intention to leave for the Bernabeu, was swiftly escorted from the building.
The Real Madrid job
Yet again, poor Benitez arrived to an, at best, lukewarm reception from fans - again because of the popularity of his predecessor.
Carlo Ancelotti had delivered La Decima the previous season and enjoyed a relationship of mutual respect with star player Cristiano Ronaldo.
Benitez, returning to where his managerial career began with Castilla B in 1986 as a 26-year-old, simply never got going.
The relationship with Ronaldo was clearly sour, and Real unthinkably lost 4-0 defeat to Barcelona in El Clasico with Benitez's characteristic defensive rigidity deserting him.
Despite hitting 10 past Malmo in a Champions League game and eight past Rayo Vallecano just before Christmas, Benitez was dismissed following a 2-2 draw at Valencia. He'd lasted seven months.
In came Zinedine Zidane, who won them the Champions League with a victory on penalties over Atletico Madrid in the final.
Benitez's next move was an eyebrow-raising one - Newcastle United, with just 10 games to save their season.
Despite wins in their last three home games, including a handsome 5-1 win over Tottenham on the season's final day, they were relegated.
Benitez, admirably, stuck around. They waltzed to the Championship title in 2016/17 and the following season he stabilised the club admirably, finishing 10th in the top flight.
These achievements must be seen in the context of minimal investment in the squad by owner Mike Ashley and fans who were caught between mutiny against the owner and an ever-growing appreciation and respect for the job their manager was doing in testing circumstances.
As his contract expired and no agreement could be reached on a renewal, Rafa said an emotional farewell to the adoring fans, but notably regretted that the club's owner didn't share his 'vision' for the future.
Yet again, Benitez's agent got busy and after a respite of just eight days, he departed to the Chinese Super League. His time with Dalian Professional was cut short by COVID-19 in January 2021.
Despite being adored by Liverpool fans after his successful term in Merseyside, the Spaniard took one of the biggest risks of his career in the summer of 2021.
After the departure of Carlo Ancelotti, Everton announced on the 30th June 2021 that Benitez would take over as head coach for the 2021/22 season.
The Spanish boss has already recieved threats from unhappy Everton fans, with banners saying "We know where you live. Don't sign." Benitez is only the second manager to have taken charge of both Liverpool and Everton.
With the fans already turning against him before he signed, it's hardly a surprise that things didn't work out for Benitez at Goodison Park.
Following a run of just one win in 13 games, the Spaniard was handed his P45 on January 16 following a 2-1 loss to Norwich.
Rafael Benitez net worth
Rafa Benitez's net worth is said to be £23million. As with many top-level managers, he has made as much of his fortune in compensation payments as wages.
He was paid a reported £7million for his early dismissal by Real Madrid and also received a sizeable pay-off from Inter Milan when he left with 18 months remaining on his contract.
Before joining Everton, his most recent post at Chinese club Dalian was reputedly worth £12million per season.
Benitez's father Francisco worked all his life in the hotel industry while his mother Rosario Maudes brought up three children. Francisco died in 2005.
Benitez has two children, Claudia and Agata, with wife Maria Montserrat, who he married in 1998 while he was manager of Extremadura.
She told Spanish newspaper La Region in 2015: "On our first date, we went to a pizzeria in Madrid. I had no idea about football. He took a pen and began to explain to me on the checkered tablecloth what 4-4-2 was." On her husband's hobbies, she commented: "He has his job, his family, and very little else."
English is one of Benitez's four languages, which he said he learned from listening to the Beatles. After earning his degree in physical education, he worked as a PE teacher and gym instructor before taking his football coaching badges.
Rafael Benitez News
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