Over the last week, we have published some of Rafa’s comments he made in the LMA magazine on how he coaches and various ways he deals with his coaching responsibilities.
But Rafa has gone into great detail about his upbringing and some of his early influences.
He also has explained why he tries to stay calm under the distinct pressures of being a manager in today’s modern football.
It’s a very revealing and fascinating interview which goes into details about Rafa growing up in Madrid.
Rafa Benitez – Valencia head coach – circa 2003
Here are some of the interview comments that we haven’t been covered in his lengthy interview:
“My parents were a great influence on me, growing up in Madrid.”
“My dad worked in the hotel industry from the age of 11 right through until his retirement.”
“Meanwhile, my mum, who was a huge Real Madrid fan, looked after three children.”
“I remember she took me to the Bernabeu stadium for training and she followed and supported me as I played football and various other sports as I was growing up.”
“I was part of the Real Madrid academy for many years and, while I wanted to play for the first team, a serious injury meant it wasn’t to be.”
” I played on for a while with other clubs, but the injury forced me to retire at only 26 and I started to earn my coaching qualifications.”
“Working at the academy with the under 16s with the likes of Vicente Del Bosque.”
“I was learning so much from everybody around me, just by watching and listening.”
“I remember helping to analyze data and review matches on the old Betamax and VHS videotapes, something that was all quite new back then.”
“I went on to work as a PE teacher and then in a gym as a teacher and coordinator, so I spent many years developing the kinds of teaching and people skills that you need as a manager.”
“Looking back, I think I knew I wanted to coach and manage from an early age.”
“At 13, I was already making notes on my team-mates and marking their performances; I’d always give myself maximum marks, so I was player of the year every season (laughs).
“At university, where I gained a degree in physical education, I would finish my studies each day and then rush off to play for the Real Madrid U18s.”
“Juggling my education and football was tough, but it was worth it because I loved both.”
“Going abroad to coach was a great challenge for me.”
“After we won the La Liga title with Valencia in 2003/04 I had a number of options open to me, but coming to manage at Liverpool was the most attractive, in part because of the passion of the fans.”
“Some years before, I had tried to improve my English by listening to The Beatles, so I felt I had a personal connection to the city.”
“Then I arrived in Liverpool with my family in the middle of a storm and thought briefly, ‘whoa, what are we doing here?’ (laughs).”
“It was also a challenge because of the language barrier.”
“I speak Italian, some French from my school days, and English, but I hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be to communicate my messages in the way I wanted with the players.”
“I was confident, though, that I could make a positive impact at the club and with the players.”
“To improve my English, I took lessons, immersed myself in the country’s culture, watched English television programmes and listened to the radio whenever I was driving.”
“I always try to be rational and stay calm under pressure.” “I have done this my whole life.”
“It’s something I learned from Luis Molowny, General Manager of Real Madrid – just stay calm and don’t rush.”
“Sometimes when you face a problem you need to give yourself time, use your common sense and then decide what to do.”
“Dealing with injuries as a player probably influenced how I handle challenges as a coach.”
“When you’ve worked so hard and given everything to make it as a player, but you can’t continue on that path, it’s very tough.”
“You have to be resilient and find another way forward.”
“I think each time I was injured as a player it helped me become better at coping with setbacks.”
“Leadership means being yourself.”
“It’s about setting a good example and, little by little, gaining the trust of those around you.”
“It wasn’t until my last year as a professional player, at Linares in southern Spain, that I really saw how I could use my experience to help the younger players.”
“It’s so important to realize that players need that guidance; they’re looking to trust and follow you and will take on board everything that you do.”
“As a coach, I used to follow Arrigo Sacchi closely; he was my idol.”
“I think when you’re young and learning you take something from every coach that you admire and respect.”
“Learning from others in that way is important, but you still have to be yourself.”
There are some fascinating insights into Rafa Benitez.
Let’s hope we can get our first win today against Leicester City.