Rafa Benitez’s departure from Real Madrid sadly didn’t come as a shock, which is telling, considering he was hired seven months ago and was given a vote of confidence about a month back. Such is the way things are run at Los Blancos.
It had only been 13 days since Real Madrid president Florentino Perez denied that he would be sacking Benitez in a radio interview as he asked the media and fans to give him time as he had only just started his work.
This was the common thought after reports of the former Napoli boss being let go started making rounds.
Four months is only too much if a manager is unreservedly unable to get results from the team, if the team is struggling in the bottom half of the table, or if it looks like he won’t be able to extract more from the available personnel.
For Jose Mourinho recently, all three points could be checked.For Benitez, au contraire, it didn’t look like he had reached the end of his abilities.
At the same time, Rafa Benitez always seemed a wrong choice for Real Madrid. He is a manager who needs control of things. He did not get it at Real Madrid.
He couldn’t manage the team the way he wanted to, he had pressure from the president, from the media which seemed against him from the very beginning and his pragmatic style invited criticism from the fans.
Benitez was brought in to “manage” and restructure a team that had just lost every trophy to arch-rivals Barcelona. Perez sacked a manager who was adored by the players and fans alike owing to the fact that he couldn’t win anything
This, despite him getting the club it’s coveted tenth Champions League trophy just a season ago. He was brought in to heal the club’s rift with Gareth Bale and he managed to do it.
In the process, however, he seemingly lost most of the players who were never happy with Ancelotti getting axed. It is natural to presuppose that Perez wanted Benitez to get Real Madrid back amongst silverware immediately but didn’t offer Benitez the freedom to do his work and throughout, there was some sort of compromise.
A powerful illustration of this fact can be made through the club’s 0-4 loss against arch rivals Barcelona. He was asked to abandon his style of play and approach the El Clasico in a more attacking fashion.
Bowing down to the pressure posed by the media, the board and the players, Benitez didn’t start Casemiro, went with the defensively flawed Danilo, and played a half-fit Karim Benzema.
Those who asked him to abandon his style to thrash Barcelona must have understood after the game that playing that sort of a game also brings with itself the risk of being at the other end of a flogging.
“Pérez was convinced that Ancelotti did not work the players hard enough, that they needed a leader not a friend,” wrote journalist Sid Lowe.
The sacking of Ancelotti had infuriated Real Madrid players and Benitez inherited a squad which was always going to be a bit resentful, especially since he has always been reputed to be one who is not the most amiable.
Steven Gerrard, who is regarded as the hero of Istanbul, where Benitez managed the Liverpool side that made the mother of all comebacks to win the Champions League against AC Milan, wrote in his autobiography that he thought that the Spaniard didn’t like him as a person despite the trophies they won together.
He also added that an emotionless and distant relationship with Benitez could evidently produce more success as he was the best tactical coach he worked with.
This shows more than anything that the Spaniard isn’t one of those teachers who tells you they’re your friend and you can confide anything in them; instead he is like a strict professor whose homework you don’t have the guts to delay.
Only here, despite being the strict professor, the manager didn’t have any power. Who would take the word of a dictator with negligible authority to dictate, seriously?
The Denis Cheryshev incident brings to the fore the fact that there was a lack of communication at the club and evidently, between the players and the manager.
A draw at Valencia is hardly a disgraceful result, especially with 10 men (Valencia did not lose a single league game at Mestalla in 2015). But everyone knew that anything but against Los Che would bring him the axe and even a win could have only postponed the inevitable.
It is believed that even before the match, the players who were growing piqued with every passing day were told not to worry as the Spaniard wouldn’t be in charge for too long.
Mostly though, a draw at Valencia was the final straw as it was a wasted opportunity. Barcelona had given them a chance to close the gap and Los Blancos failed to make the most of it.
It absolutely cannot be ignored that under Benitez, Real Madrid failed to win against Barcelona, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Villarreal and Valencia. It must be noted that Cristiano Ronaldo also failed to score against any of these teams, and PSG (in both games).
These are the games that count for the side because other wins are always taken for granted.
Benitez had described the very attacking nature of the Madrid squad as a problem, something a lot might have thought at some point of time. After all, balance is important anywhere. But he said it out loud and sure enough, it came with consequences.
It’s worth mentioning that a banner at Mestalla had a picture of the two league titles and the UEFA Cup Valencia won in three years under Bentiez. They haven’t won the league in the ten years since.
In a poetic, albeit cruel fashion, a 2-2 draw against his former side brought an end for him at his dream job. Florentino Perez had had enough.
Across Perez’s 12 years in charge, the president has spent 1.2 billion euros on transfers. His second spell has yielded one league title, two Copa del Rey wins and one Champions League in six seasons.
Their arch-rivals, Barcelona, have won four La Ligas, two Copa del Reys and two Champions League crowns in the same time.
At the same time, Real Madrid have become the richest club in Europe with a revenue of 550 million euros registered in the calendar year of 2014.
Perez has improved the finances and produce the kind of money through which the club doesn’t have to bring in foreign investment.
In his first term in charge, the club’s financial position was really poor and Perez has now maximised the financial potential of the club.
It makes you think whether it would be better if he was only going to be running the financial side of things, and not working as a director of football as well.
But Perez is there to stay. He has ensured no one can challenge him for the spot of President by making sure the prerequisites for the position are absolutely beyond reach for anyone wanting to take over.
He is an authoritarian like Rafa Benitez, but in contrast and more importantly, he has all the needed authority that one needs for being one.
Even so, in the process, Perez is also doing a fine job of making the club play catch up to Barcelona every season.
Under his reign, managers are discarded with an unmatched haste. They are not allowed to manage the way they want to, nor given the time to implement their style.
This adds to the problems as players are forced to experience the upheaval all too regularly and adjust to different styles of coaching.
For Florentino Perez, the club seems to be a business more than anything else.
If financial might accounts for success of a football club, then Real Madrid can sure bask in all the glory; but if trophies matter a little bit, and they should considering the swiftness in which managers are disposed off, Real Madrid have very little to show in recent times.