Rafa Benitez in today’s press conference seemed upbeat, and as usual, he answered the questions he was given thoughtfully.
He talked about how there are basically two ways to improve the team – one is by buying players – like most of the top clubs these days do.
As Rafa says, if they are weak in one position they bring in a player for £50M and that will usually solve the problem.
And the second way is by coaching – taking the players you have and making them into better players and using the team formations which best suits the abilities the players have.
That’s almost the definition of coaching.
Rafa did that brilliantly last season, and with the seven new players, we have from last year at this time, Rafa has a decent chance of making those players (much) better by the end of this season.
Rafa reminds us a lot of Sir Bobby Robson, and like Bobby, he’s the consummate coach who loves improving his players during a season.
This is some of what Rafa said during his press conference.
“We have to concentrate on improving the team as much as we can.”
“The new signings are closer to starting now because they are fitter.”
“We are talking about one of the top sides. They have a good manager – I know Sarri well from his experience in Italy.”
“The main factor for us is the attitude of the players – their work rate, their mentality.”
“You have to try to win, and try to win using the brain – not just the heart.”
Rafa may be leaving Newcastle next summer, but you would never think of it from this press conference.
He talked about the fans and how smart they are.
As far as their frustration goes, he sympathized with them but said as soon as they enter the stadium they must be positive and support the side.
The fans did that so well last season, and it was one reason we managed to go through a very tough nine-game spell with just one point and why we were able to pull away earlier this year with a string of good results.
Rafa wants the same again this season, and we’ll see how we do by next May.
We are hoping at some time before the end of the season that Rafa will indeed sign a new deal even if Mike Ashley is still at the club.
Rafa seems to have good relationships at Newcastle and maybe even with Mike Ashley.
In fact, he has said it may surprise people, but his relationship with the owner is quite a good one.
This is what he told his friend Guillem Balague in a lengthy interview back in June:
“My relationship with the owners normally isn’t as bad as people maybe think it is because I am fighting for the best for my club. I’m not fighting for what’s best for Rafa Benitez.”
“Normally I never have a problem with my contract because it’s more or less; it’s just I want to improve the facilities, I want to improve the academy, I want to bring in better players and be more competitive like that.”
“The fans appreciate that; it’s been the same in Napoli, Liverpool, here, Valencia – they appreciate that.”
“Then for professionals (like an owner), if they have this vision, they can go one step back and say: “It’s improving my team; it’s improving my club; it’s improving my business.?”
Hopefully, the penny will finally drop for Ashley sometime soon; that Rafa is striving to make Newcastle United into a great club that in the future will be a lot more expensive on the open market than we are now.
That means the owner can make big money by selling Newcastle sometime in the future.
But only if Ashley starts supporting Rafa and keeps him at the club.
And one last point, Rafa loves the passion of the Newcastle fans and their undying passion for their club.
So it could be difficult for a man as passionate about football as Rafa Benitez, to walk away from the club next June.
We hope that’s true.
We’ll know soon enough.