INTERVIEW | 22/06/2015Speaking to Realmadrid.com, the coach analysed his opening days as the Whites' boss.
Rafa Benítez was unveiled as the new Real Madrid coach on 3 June. Since then, the Whites boss has been working on preparing the team for next season. In an interview with Realmadrid.com, he analysed his impressions and looked over the current issues relating to the club.
With a few weeks now gone by since your official unveiling, what are your feelings about being Real Madrid coach once again, this time the first-team coach?
It's hard to explain in only a few words, but I remember that on that day the talk was of the return of a "man of the club", of the fulfilment of a dream, of coming back home and things like that, and in truth I have to say that it's a combination of all that. On the day of my unveiling at the Bernabéu, memories came flooding back to me of all the training sessions I did on the small clay pitch that was where the La Esquina del Bernabéu shopping centre is now, the hours spent in the gym that was below one of the stadium entrance passages, racing along La Castellana after coming out of training at the old training ground to get to the stadium early and get one of the front standing rows in the third tier to see the first team's comebacks. Basically, many memories that hit you in the space of a second and at the same time make you realise how this club has developed and what a massive club it is.
Talking of the club's stature and development, what do you think of Ciudad Real Madrid?
Our training sessions at the old training ground, on clay pitches and with 6 balls for everyone, seem very far away, as do the arguments when I was coaching the Under-19s to use the grass pitch if it wasn't raining. Luckily or otherwise, my experience and my age mean I've seen a lot of training grounds, and some very good ones. Ciudad Real Madrid at Valdebebas is spectacular. The quality of the playing surfaces, the dressing rooms, the gyms, the offices, the first-team residence, the academy residence, the attention to detail, to which you have to add the friendliness and professionalism of the employees who I've dealt with. I can't wait to experience day-to-day work at Ciudad Real Madrid.
We're aware that you have been working in permanent contact with the club from Liverpool, where you're spending a few days with your family. How have your initial days been?
A few days ago, an English coach who's a friend of mine called me for a short chat and said to me: "Today's Father's Day, but we're always working". And in a sense that's how it is. After a couple of years away from home, I'm trying to be with my wife and my children all the time I can. But, at the same time, I'm organising all the details of this new adventure with my staff. We meet with and talk to the heads of the different departments to listen, convey our ideas and start to make decisions. From the workings of the Analysis Department, to the materials necessary for the tour of Australia and Asia, the players who can travel, etc. There are many things that need our immedate attention, and that's what we're working on. Fortunately, the experience of the professionals that the club already has, alongside that of those who have arrived as part of the new backroom team, is enabling us to organise things in the best way possible.
In your answer, you mention the tour of Australia and Asia. How do you approach your first tour as Real Madrid coach?
With a sense of great excitement allied with the responsibility of representing this club across the world. We're aware of what Real Madrid means for millions of supporters on every continent. As professionals, we have to fit the club's commitment to its universality with the preparations and demands of pre-season. I have to admit that it's not easy to combine both objectives. The stature of Real Madrid sometimes leads to scenarios like this; it's something that's normal at football's elite clubs, but allow me to mention my experience again. At other clubs, we've undertaken tours like this and the key is in the organisation, in which we're going to prioritise sporting aspects. The training facilities and conditions are key for us, trying to reduce the travelling times each day, resting between events with sponsors, etc. In short, details in which, again, the professionals that this club has are showing the high standards they set. We'll try to make the most of the time we have to get to know each other better and, as I said to begin with, combine football and image-related objectives.
In terms of the footballing aspects, have you now formed an idea of how your Real Madrid team is going to play? What style of play are we going to see?
As I said on the day of my unveiling, to a large degree the players you have influence how you're going to play. We have attacking players, so our idea of play will be offensive. You have to draw a distinction between style of play and formation. Many people believe that the players' position on the pitch, 4-4-2, 4-3-3, is a style of play and that's not the case. Our style of play will be based on playing attacking football, having possession of the ball whenever we can, attacking by moving the ball quickly, looking not to lose balance between attack and defence, showing a positive sort of aggression and adapting to a range of formations if necessary. We'll try to impose our brand of football, but we have to be able to deal with other alternatives if required. That's the difference between style of play, basically an attacking one in our case, and formation, which will be the players' position on the pitch.
The fans are wondering whether we're going to see changes to the positions of certain players.
As we said before, my backroom team and I have been following the players and have been in contact with them from the first moment. So, firstly I have to say that the attitude to their work that they've all shown me, Sergio, Iker, Cristiano, Bale, Pepe, Varane, everyone, has been excellent. The first thing I've done is listen, find out what went well and not so well last year, their impressions, what in their opinion could be improved and what they'd like to be done. I've done the same with all the technical staff and professionals at the club and, with all that information, once all together we'll decide what's best for the team and for every one of them. They've all shown a very good attitude to their work and I've conveyed to them that the technical staff will be there for them for anything they need. In fact, we're in contact with the injured players to gain all the time we can before training starts. In terms of who'll play and where, as I said, we have to get together, train together, and then we'll decide. Contrary to what is being said, Iker, Sergio, Cristiano, Isco, Bale, none of them are "demanding" to play here or there, among other reasons because we haven't yet decided the most appropriate system with which to try to get the most out of each player. They have to feel at ease on the pitch to give us the best they can.
Summer is a time of signings. Will there be new faces?
Of course. Danilo and Casemiro, for example, are players who are going to be important and the club is working every day to try to raise the level of this team with the odd signing that can help us to tackle the challenges ahead of us, but let me say that improving the current Real Madrid squad is immensely difficult. This team has won everything and has shown the level it has. The fans can rest assured that this squad will possess the level of competitiveness that is demanded of this club.
There are players who are recovering from injury. Does this issue concern you?
My concern is that all the injured players get back fit as soon as possible. All coaches have that concern. From the first moment I've been clear on one thing: you have to do everything you can to make sure the players are in peak physical condition for as long as possible. To that end, I think that communication and coordination between the doctors, physiotherapists, fitness coaches and coaches is fundamental. The fitness coaches will work as one and there will be daily dialogue with the medical staff, they'll share all the information and knowledge that they have so that the players are in the best possible condition. Changes always cause upheaval, but what we all want is the best for the club, so that everything works correctly. The players must be in good shape, that's the key to it all and the new structure pursues that objective.
You appear optimistic and seem to have clear ideas.
That's how I like it. Throughout my career, I've been lucky enough to have very capable people around me. We know what we want and we know how to adapt to different situations. Real Madrid is a great club, which has a great team and where the demands couldn't be higher, a club which attracts the attention of the whole world, so we'll try to do things with common sense, with a sense of calm, and everything will be that little bit easier. I've been hired to take on responsibilities and I will do so, we'll try to create a working environment that enables us to get results. That's why I'm optimistic, because we have the means, the ability, the commitment and the dedication that will help us to meet our objectives.