Rafa Benitez meets Tubes: How he was born to be a manager
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Last Updated: 04/05/19 7:48pm
Ahead of Newcastle's monumental clash with Liverpool on Saturday evening, Tubes went up to Tyneside to get an insight into what makes Rafa Benitez tick.
In an exclusive interview with Soccer AM's roving reporter, the Spaniard opens up about his playing days, facing Liverpool and how he was born to be a manager.
On... how good he was as a player?
"I could play as a right winger but I was a holding midfielder and later on was a sweeper. I was behind the team talking with everyone as I wasn't the quickest, but my brain was thinking as a coach.
"It was an advantage playing in a position where you can see it all. It was difficult as a holding midfielder as I was in and around people. I was giving the ball away all the time. I got injured in 1979 with the Spanish national team and after that I was always injured. Could I play in the first team of Real Madrid? No chance. I could play at the bottom of the first division in Spain or at the top of the Championship in Spain as I was professional and I liked to train.
"I was good at analysing games but I couldn't do it myself!"
On... being born to manage?
"I was a manager and a player at university, captain at 18-years-old. As I played for the Real Madrid youth team I was quite good for university level. I could watch from the stands and if something was wrong I could come down and fix it by playing as the sweeper. When I was 13-years-old I was taking notes, analysing things. I had 1,500 videos of games from around the world."
On... how the game has changed?
"It has changed a lot. I have a degree in PE and have a university brain - I've always thought of football in different ways. I've always been forward thinking in terms of how we prepare things.
"My staff have to be good with the software we use and are good with the vision of how we want to play. There has been an evolution in how teams play. I read an article in Italy which said in the past wingers had four seconds before the defender would close them down, but when Diego Maradona was playing it was two-and-a-half seconds. Then later on it was just one second. That means you have to play one-touch football and you have to move all the time. The best players are the ones that think quickly and choose the right options.
On... how he like to relax?
"I like to play chess but I'm out of practice. I like to walk the dogs and stay at home with the family - watch the TV. Nothing special. Just to stay calm and enjoy time with your family as much as you can."
On... facing Liverpool?
"We are professional and we have to do our job. My relationship with the city, with Liverpool, with the club, with the fans, is there. I was there six years, we won some trophies and we have good memories.
"I think everybody understands that we are professionals and we will do our best, that's it."