Rafa Benitez does not leave fond memories for many Real Madrid fans during his short stint as first team manager in 2015-2016. Though his connection to the club runs much deeper than those six months. The Spanish manager grew up in the Real Madrid youth system and played three seasons for Castilla. As a manager, he coached the Real Madrid’s U17 team and then U19 team over a period of seven years. He then became an assistant to the first team, and then managed Castilla from 1993-1995. Now as Celta Vigo manager, he has called the match against his boyhood club, “special”.
“I played for Real Madrid at the age of 13,” the Celta manager explained to media in his pre-match press conference. “I spent many years as a footballer and then as a coach. Later, I returned as a first team coach. Of course, it is a very special match. Real Madrid is a great club,” he added.
Benitez was asked about Ancelotti, the man he replaced in 2015, who once again finds himself as Real Madrid coach. “He’s a great coach, he should continue for many years because he does it very well and knows how to manage a group.”
Questions were then asked about Bellingham, who has hit the ground running in Madrid. Benitez referenced some the scouting he did on a young Bellingham and his brother: “I have friends in Birmingham and I knew his brother, who has now gone to Sunderland, and we followed their careers. Jude was a player who was already seen to have great potential even at a young age. When you pay a hundred-odd million for a player, he has to be good.”
Finally, Benitez was asked about the signings he made while manager of Real Madrid: Casemiro, Lucas Vazquez, and Mateo Kovacic.
“Many of those who were there are very professional players and that is why they have such a long life as professionals in the elite. That they are calm tomorrow and that they do not complicate our lives too much,” he concluded.