Former Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez has conceded that it’s “not easy” to work under the club’s president Florentino Perez.
Benitez was sacked earlier this season with the team struggling to keep pace with rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in the La Liga title race.
On Wednesday night, the coach was a guest on BT Sport’s Champions League coverage and opened up on what it’s like to work at a club which has a flyaway approach to managers.
“He's [Perez] around, he's talking with players, he's talking with the press,” he said, per Chris Beesley of the Daily Mirror. “He's always around, it's not easy for a manager, especially coming from England, to see the chairman talking with players or talking with the press every single day.”
It's difficult to explain. You need to know exactly what happened in Real Madrid in the last years. You could see Camacho, Del Bosque, Pellegrini, Mourinho, Ancelotti [all hired and fired as Real boss]... so it's not easy to be there [sic] manager there.
You have to do everything perfect. As soon as something is wrong or the chairman thinks that it's wrong then you're used to having problems.
I think that we were quite good, as I said before. I think that we could do really well but they were a little bit nervous and the fans were a little bit nervous and the chairman was a little bit nervous then they change the manager.
There’s no denying managers have to live up to particularly high expectations at the Santiago Bernabeu. It’s something Benitez’s predecessor Carlo Ancelotti found out to his peril, as he was sacked just a season on from clinching the club’s much-coveted 10th European Cup.
In the capital there seems to be a constant strive for perfection, which has been compounded by the dominance of their great rivals Barcelona, who, after a stellar 2015 in which they won five trophies, seem set to sweep all before them once again in 2016.
That’s something Benitez also found to be an issue.
“The question is that Barcelona is there winning and that is difficult to manage for Real Madrid so they have to keep winning and if you do well still Barcelona could still be doing well,” he said per Tom Farmery of the MailOnline. “That is a big problem for Real Madrid.”
It’s also a big problem for their star player Cristiano Ronaldo, whose stunning goalscoring efforts are often in vain in pursuit of silverware. Benitez also opened up on the forward, insisting the team's talisman seemed content during his stint at the club.
“I think that he was quite happy with the way that we were training because we trained with the ball so for players, you have top-class players here,” he said of Ronaldo, per Farmery.
“They like, they enjoy training with the ball. He's a winner, he's very competitive, he wants to win, he wants to score goals so that is the positive side.”
Since Zinedine Zidane took over from Benitez, the Portuguese has been in much better form, getting back to scoring regularly in La Liga and netting the crucial opener against AS Roma in the Champions League on Wednesday.
AS English thinks that this version of Real Madrid is a lot easier on the eye than the one put together by Benitez:
AS English @English_AS
Zidane's Real Madrid are much more fun than Rafa's, this you-try-we-try approach is great to watch.. https://t.co/wDsPdzjWQd2016-2-17 21:23:54
Stability is key to success from a team perspective, though, and Benitez hailed the consistency showed by Barcelona, something which is at odds with the approach of Los Blancos.
“Barcelona now has been in six cup finals in the last eight years,” Benitez said, per Beesley. “They’ve won more than double the trophies of Real Madrid in the time that the chairman is there, so I think it is because they are consistent and that is the key to win the league title.”
After his failure at the Santiago Bernabeu it’s going to be intriguing to see where Benitez ends up next. The former Liverpool manager hinted that he would be keen on a return to the Premier League, though, per BT Sport Football:
BT Sport Football @btsportfootball
"I like the @premierleague!" Former @LFC boss Rafa Benitez admits he's keen on a return to England. https://t.co/XAw7Ks13xf2016-2-17 22:32:25
Sadly, Benitez’s stint in his dream job panned out just as many had anticipated. His hardline, pragmatic and tactical approach to the game always seemed to be at odds with the free-flowing, fast-paced football which is craved by Madridistas. Of course, more time may have yielded better results, but that’s not a luxury afforded to many at the Bernabeu.
His remarks on consistency are salient. After all, Barcelona have a model which they’ve meticulously adhered to for the best part of a decade, and while managers have come and gone, they’ve all referred to these mantras.
As long as Real continue to rip it up and start again, they’ll never enjoy similar spell of sustained success.