Even without a job, Rafael Benitez loves life in England. The Spaniard currently resides in the country, even while without work, and it’s somewhere that his family have been reluctant to leave.
Since leaving his job in China, Benitez has been back in England, and the former Real Madrid and Liverpool boss sat down with MARCA, from his home in Liverpool, for a chat.
Firstly, you’re without a club. What must a club have to do to convince you now?
I’ve already received more than one in the last few months, but it wasn’t the right time or project. I needed to spend time with my family. I want to find a club with ambition, one either competing for titles or looking for a serious project that will lead to that later. I always say that the key to success is balance – both on the pitch between defence and attack, but also in the management of the club.
Do you see the Premier League as your next destination?
My experiences with Liverpool, Chelsea and Newcastle have all been very enjoyable and for the reason my priority is the Premier League. My family are in England and it’s the most complete league, but I can’t rule out leaving. As I said, if there’s a well-defined project with objectives.
You’ve been living in England for years. Would you like to coach their national team some day?
I’m not thinking about international football yet. I like working day to day too much, and being on the training pitches with the players. The time for a national team will come.
Would you rule out a return to Spain in the near future?
If next season is the near future, then I think it can be ruled out. After that, you never know. It depends on the seriousness of the project.
This week we’ve got Real Madrid-Liverpool. Who do you see as favourites?
Both are good teams. I don’t see a clear favourite.
What are your memories of the famous game against Real Madrid while you were at Liverpool, when you won 1-0 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, and 4-0 at Anfield?
They were unforgettable days for us. We beat Real Madrid 1-0 and 4-0, Manchester United 4-1, and Aston Villa 5-0. Real Madrid had won a lot of games in a row, and we had Steven Gerrard coming back form an injury, so I decided to sit back and counterattack with a 4-2-3-1 formation. The key was self-trust and organisation. In the return game at Anfield, we could have done the same, but we decided to play on the front foot and take advantage of Anfield. We didn’t give them anything, and Iker Casillas was man of the match.
Why do you think Liverpool are having such a strange year?
It has been a different year for everyone. The virus made pre-season difficult and changed how coaches and players train and work. There have been more injuries and travel has changed too. Everyone has suffered in one way or another, and Liverpool have had very important players get injured.
How do you think the game will unfold?
I think Liverpool will try to do what they do best – to push up as much as they can. If Real Madrid can have the ball, Liverpool will be quick to counterattack. It’s what they did against RB Leipzig in both games, and it brought success.
How do you rate Real Madrid this season?
They’ve had spells, as often happens in every team. They’ve come through difficulties. When you have good players, you tend to get back to your best during a season and then it depends on your rivals if you win titles or not. The fact is that Real Madrid always tend to improve in the second half of the season.
Do you think it’ll be a quick game, like Liverpool’s tend to be, or a little slower, like Real Madrid?
Liverpool will try to make it fast, but Madrid will want to keep the ball. The team who best impose their rhythm will have success.
Who benefits from fans not being present?
I think Real Madrid. Anfield’s atmosphere has given Liverpool a lot, and more so in Europe. The famous 4-0 was an example of this.
You launched the careers of Lucas Vazquez and Casemiro at Real Madrid. Are you surprised by the level of their performances this season?
I’m not, because they’re excellent professionals and people. Both have proven to be top-class players, those who make their teammates play better.
What do you think about Sergio Ramos’ renewal?
That’s up to both parties. From afar, all I can say is that Sergio is a great player.
Do you feel saddened by the situation at Valencia?
I’ll always have a special feeling for the club and city. From a distance, I can only wish them well and hope that things go well soon.
Do you rule our a return one day?
You can never know what the future holds. Now, Valencia have to define their project, that’s the most important thing. Then, you never know what will happen in the future, not with any club nor person.