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How would Rafa Benítez coach Real Madrid?

We interview Napoli expert Conor Dowley about Rafa Benitez, who could become Real's manager very soon.

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Conor Dowley is the chief editor for SB Nation's Napoli site The Siren's Song. He has deep knowledge about Benítez's coaching style, as the Spanish has spent his last two years managing the Italian side. How would Benítez coach Real Madrid? Has he changed?

Managing Madrid: Is Benítez as defensive as he was during his tenure with Liverpool?

Conor Dowley: That's a little bit hard to judge from his Napoli days, because Napoli's defense just isn't very good. He does definitely still have a tendency to get far too conservative tactically, slowing down the attack and pulling the midfield back at times when going for the throat is the better call, especially with that porous defense that still leaks goals even when shielded by every Napoli player on the pitch.

MM: Who is his most important player in Napoli's current system?

CD: Marek Hamsik, though I'm not sure Rafa knows that. The attack just functions better with him in the side, with his vision and drive dictating play. But Rafa for some reason leaves him on the bench over and over and over again, especially in big matches of late. It's incredibly frustrating, and it's little wonder that Napoli have struggled when it counts this season when their captain and best player isn't playing.

MM: Do you think he could do a good job with Real Madrid?

CD: That's... really hard to answer, honestly. I certainly have a long list of complaints about Rafa now that two of my teams have had him as a manager (yes, I'm a Liverpool fan too, deal with it), but he can definitely do great work with the right team. Real Madrid would be the greatest assembly of talent he's ever worked with, so he could work some real magic with it. Or he could over-rotate all the time "to prepare for important matches" and lose to a bunch of weak teams because of it -- all while praising the "brave and impressive performances" of his players, even after soul-crushing losses to relegation threatened teams -- and have the fanbase screaming for his head by November. Not sure there's much of a middle ground here.

MM: Does he still make rotations constantly? Craig Bellamy complained about that plan in his biography.

CD: Yes. Oh god yes. He'll bench in-form players for no apparent reason on a regular basis, and kill their good form doing it. Though he always has a few players that he runs in to the ground for no apparent reason, even if they're playing terribly. That's fun too.

MM: How would you rate his two years in Napoli?

CD: It's been a mixed bag that probably falls short of being called positive. Yes, he won the Coppa Italia while setting a club goalscoring record last year and won the Supercoppa this season, but he also fell short of expectations at every other time of asking. Napoli only finished third in Serie A last season, then lost out on Champions League qualification to Athletic Bilbao. This season's league campaign has been a massive disappointment, with far, FAR too many points dropped to minnows, and the tactical setup and performances in the two semifinals that Napoli reached were shockingly poor.

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