- FIFA.com chats with Rafael Benitez
- He tells us what makes Ronaldo and Messi so special
- Maradona's solo effort at Mexico 1986 still his favourite goal
Rafael Benitez is a name synonymous with success. Wherever the 60-year-old has coached, be it in his native Spain, Italy or England, he has managed to deliver silverware, including the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup. Since last summer, he has enjoying a new challenge at the helm of Chinese first division side Dalian Pro.
- FIFA Club World Cup: 2010
- UEFA Champions League: 2005
- UEFA Cup / UEFA Europa League: 2004, 2013
- UEFA Super Cup: 2005
- La Liga (Spanish Championship): 2002, 2004
- English FA Cup: 2006
- English Community Shield: 2006
- Italian Cup: 2014
- Italian Super Cup: 2010, 2014
- La Liga Coach of the Year: 2002
- Real Valladolid, Osasuna, Extremadura, Tenerife, Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli, Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Dalian Pro
Ahead of next week’s The Best FIFA Football Awards™, FIFA.com spoke to Benitez about some of his nominations for the awards and the changes he has seen over his coaching career.
FIFA.com: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have long dominated the FIFA Football Awards. What makes them so special?
Rafael Benitez: Having two players of their calibre is fortuitous for the game and for their fellow professionals. They’re very competitive, continually motivated and always want to win, which is extremely important. If you want to win titles, you need players with that kind of mentality. The key to their success has been their consistency. Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland are young players with that potential, but they need consistency.
From 2004 to 2010 you enjoyed a successful spell at Liverpool. The current incumbent and winner of The Best FIFA Men’s Coach in 2019 is Jurgen Klopp, who has also achieved great things at Anfield. What do you think of him?
He's a great coach. Of course, he has a really good team, but he’s a very good motivator. In the end, he achieved the loftiest goals. Winning the Premier League and the Champions League is huge – especially with Liverpool. I know what this means to the club and am glad he managed it. His passion for the game and his footballing philosophy are the keys to his success.
Having been involved in coaching for 30 years, do you think the profession has changed in that time?
I think on the whole it’s largely remained the same. The only difference is social media. Your every gesture or decision, during or after games, is on the internet within minutes. The fans discuss things a great deal there, which wasn’t the case in the past. Nowadays, it is also a question of dealing with this pressure.
Will we see you in charge of a national team one day?
It could be that I eventually coach a national team, even though I’m still a bit young for that. I like to work with the players every day, although I certainly wouldn't rule out a national team job in principle. It is important to always stay calm and make the right decisions at the right time.
Has goalkeeping changed during your time?
Absolutely! In the past it was principally about shot stopping and controlling the penalty area, but now you also need to be good with your feet. Based on that, [Marc-Andre] ter Stegen (Barcelona) is certainly one of the best goalkeepers right now. Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid) is also a great exponent. In England, there’s huge demand for this breed of modern goalkeeper in the style of Alisson (Liverpool) and Ederson (Manchester City).
To conclude our interview, we have a set of quickfire questions for you. Firstly, who’s the best player you've ever coached?
The best player you've never coached?
The best game?
When we beat Real Madrid 4-0 at Anfield.
The best league you’ve coached in?
The English Premier League.
The best formation?
The best goal of all time?
Maradona’s at Mexico 1986. That was wonderful.
Your fondest memory?
Winning the UEFA Champions League final with Liverpool in 2005 in Istanbul.
Your biggest success?
My titles with Valencia. Two league championships, one UEFA Cup and one UEFA Super Cup.
The best coach you’ve come up against?