Real Madrid sacked Rafa Benitez in early January after just six months in charge, after some bad results, but that was in spite of Real still being third in La Liga.
They had also just qualified for the round of the last 16 of the Champions League which they eventually won for the second time in three years and 11th time overall, when they beat cross town rivals Atletico Madrid on penalties in the final.
A 4-0 defeat to Barcelona in November was the tipping point for Rafa and the Real fans turned against the man who is now the very popular Newcastle manager.
Rafa Benitez – at Newcastle
Real defender Pepe had been dropped by Rafa early in the season and had been critical of the manager, but the Portuguese International has said on reflection that Benitez had done well at Real and his contribution should not be forgotten.
This is what Pepe said:
“I’m always sincere with my words and I must say I really liked the way he worked.”
“Benitez is a great professional and has good coaching methods, but was unlucky.” “Luck is needed in order to be successful regardless of the amount of work you put in.”
“Rafa was honest with me – I was not a part of his ideal starting defence, but I asked him to give me a chance to prove myself.”
“Madrid’s strength lies in our fans.” “Being booed at Santiago Bernabeu is a struggle, but you realize the club’s greatness.”
“A player must reflect on his performance and keep pushing to the limit so those boos become cheers.”
“We have a demanding home crowd but they also have great respect to our opponents, as they praised Atletico Madrid after the final.”
“They enjoy the good times and hold their players to a high standard of play.”
Everything is now in place for Rafa to make Newcastle great again – and take us back to being one of England’s top clubs.
Unfortunately it has to start in the second division after total incompetence by those running the club last season meant we deserved to be relegated.
But with Rafa now in charge of all football matters at the club we expect Newcastle to start winning again, just like we did in the last six games of last season when we amassed 12 points as the manager had Newcastle looking like a top six side.
Hopefully we can get promoted straight back to the Premier League in the coming season.
Note: Sad to see the passing of the great Muhammad Ali yesterday – he was an inspiration to me when growing up and he ‘s the most courageous sportsman there’s ever been – in my book – truly the greatest.