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    • #5701
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      By Abayomi Kalejaye

      When Rafa Benitez hoisted Newcastle's muffler with a marked grin that registered evenly on his face, one would be forgiving for thinking one of his lifelong ambitions was to manage a modest Newcastle side.

      On Friday, 11th of March, Newcastle unveiled Rafa Benitez as their manager following the sacking of Steve McClaren.

      It was a move that could eventually be beneficial to Newcastle come the end of the season; but one that is effectively damaging for Benitez.
      In a season that could best be described as antithetical for Benitez; the swift career nosedive from a manager that was supposed to compete for domestic and European titles to one striving to salvage a relegation-threatened team has been nothing short of monumental.

      In a career that has spanned a period of 23 years, Benitez gradually built his reputation as an astute tactician by winning the supposedly two-team La Liga in 2002 and 2004 with Valencia and Champions League with Liverpool in 2005. Considering both teams were relatively a level below the super-powers in status like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, etc., his achievements undoubtedly merited more credits. Throw in other his achievements in Spain, England and Italy, Benitez was a coach whose competence could hardly be questioned.

      Yet, for all his tactical nous, a managerial career that once appeared glowing is fast plunging from grace to grass. To think he has gone from sitting in the dug-out of the richest club in the world to a team sitting pretty fine in the relegation zone within two months simply seem to challenge reason.
      In point of fact, it can be said that Benitez has been his own worst enemy; the architect of his misfortune.

      From his time in Liverpool to all the teams he has managed, there has been one mutual denominator responsible for his managerial failure – poor man management skills. The inability of Benitez to instil a camaraderie between himself and his players have often led to reduced commitment – and in some cases, animosity – from his players. One of such was Marco Materazzi. “Benitez was afraid of his own shadow. He was jealous of the memory of [Jose] Mourinho,” Materazzi said, according to FourFourTwo. “I had a booth with photos of my successes and Benitez forced me to take them down.

      Another player of his whom he spent six years with in Liverpool – Steven Gerrad – gave an accurate assessment of Benitez’s man-management skills: “Most of my best days in a Liverpool shirt came under Rafa Benitez,” Gerrard told the BBC. “Strangely, we probably have the most distant relationship out all the mangers that I've worked with. It's not a problem, I've got huge respect for Rafa as a coach but there's been no contact with him since he left Liverpool for whatever reason. “But we always had a distant relationship even as manager and player and I think that drove on and spurred me on to the good times I had in the kit.” “I think this is why I performed so consistently under Rafa. I didn't know whether he respected me, whether he loved me, whether he cared about me, if he rated me.
      “It was that always not knowing. I wanted to get that love and I was always every day trying to be the best in training and the best in the team.”
      “I think every player does [thrive when a manager shows love and care]. Managers do it different.

      “Some managers are really close to the players and have that man management style where they always make you feel wanted and loved and try and drag the best out of you that way, but Rafa does it differently”
      It’s safe to say that Benitez’s career could have panned out more favorably had he been more attentive to his relationship with his players.

      Further, known for his conservative approach towards games, his frequent aversion towards tactical pliability has more often than not hamstrung his teams’ potentials. Little wonder many Madristas were understandably discountenanced of his appointment. His laid-back approach in his only Clasico against Barcelona ensured his team suffered an inglorious shellacking – thus effectively proving to be the final nail in the coffin for the Madrid-born coach.

      Comparatively with the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez always seem eager to jump at any  available managerial opportunity without considering its implications to his pedigree. The prudently calculative approach Guardiola and Mourinho often adopt regarding job offers enables them deflect any potential threat that could depreciate their value. Taking over from Di Matteo at Chelsea was never going to end well considering his frosty history with Chelsea supporters. Despite winning a Europa League trophy, it was evident the job wasn’t going to be his full time. No doubt he should have seen the handwriting on the wall before accepting the offer.

      Except Benitez pulls a Leicester City with Newcastle – this campaign or the next, it is unlikely Benitez would be treated with the deference a coach of his caliber deserves.

    • #9609
      Anonymous
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      Couldn't agree more with you.

    • #9610
      Anonymous
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      Nicely written. He really needs to amend his approach when managing players.

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