Benitez warned by Blues boss
Alex McLeish has warned striker Christian Benitez after returning late from international duty.
By Ben Collins
Last Updated: 21/10/09 5:25pm
Birmingham boss Alex McLeish has warned striker Christian Benitez after returning late from international duty.
The Ecuador international was due back in England on Friday evening after playing in his country's last two World Cup qualifiers.
The 23-year-old was set to travel straight to the team hotel in London ahead of Blues' visit to Arsenal on Saturday but missed the 3-1 defeat after missing a connecting flight from South America.
Benitez had played against Chile in the early hours of Thursday morning and McLeish wondered why his summer signing had to fly back via Ecuador.
The Blues boss allowed Benitez to miss the previous game against Burnley for family reasons and has made it clear to the striker that he expects better in future.
"The wee man's back, we've had a meeting and he's got the message," McLeish told the Birmingham Mail.
"He held his hands up and admitted that there were some things he could have done better and I gave him a tarjeta amarilla - the yellow card.
"We gave him great support when his father had the car crash and he went off the radar a bit.
"I wondered why he couldn't just come from Santiago as opposed to having to travel to Quito first," McLeish added. "He said it was Ecuador's federation, and other players from clubs in Portugal and Italy went back to Quito as well.
"I said I couldn't care less about the Italians and Portuguese and their rules, I'm in charge of Birmingham City and my interests are the club, and I have got to fight to make the fans happy here and I need guys like him to help me do that.
"As per the Fifa laws, he should have been back. Had he gone to Ecuador and been an hour late or something, then Fifa would be wrapping us on the knuckles.
"We did try to make provisions before he went away to get him back as quickly as possible. He might not have been ready for the Arsenal game, but the sooner he got here, the more it would have aided his recovery.
"I told him it was very important if we go forward, we have got to have the communication, the respect, the professionalism. For if I was dropping him from the team, I would explain to him why, I would communicate with him. I don't just ignore players.
"It's a mutual respect and I'm not treating them like kids, I'm treating them like professionals and when I had that little meeting with him, I outlined the importance of these things.
"He's not the only South American who has been incommunicado when he's gone back to his own country. I imagine he's seen all his family and friends.
"We gave him an extra week and I would just like to think that he will repay us with the performances."
Benitez has impressed so far for Blues, despite being yet to score in eight appearances, and McLeish has backed him to become a success in England.
"I did stress to Chucho that the fans have already got a lot of affection for him, despite not quite seeing that much of him yet," he said.
"It has been hectic for him ever since we brought him here. He had that operation on his shoulder in the summer and he's had World Cup games, but with the internationals out of the road, there's a chance now for him.
"I have not seen any signs that he's not happy," McLeish added. "That sort of stuff is just a rumour.
"Not only is he playing in the team, but we've probably played him ahead of schedule. That's how much we think of him and I think he's got the potential to make an impact.
"We haven't actually seen the evidence he will be a massive hit in the Premier League. The potential is there."