Rafael Benitez admitted to be emotional as he was appointed the new head coach of Real Madrid, who last week sacked Carlo Ancelotti.
Despite leading Los Blancos to La Decima and the Copa del Rey last season, a trophyless term this time round saw the popular Ancelotti dismissed at the conclusion of the campaign. It was immediately suggested that Benitez would be the man to succeed the Italian in the hotseat, and he was unveiled on Wednesday after he signed a three-year contract in the capital.
For the 55-year-old, it is a return to the club he coached at youth level in 1986 when injury ended his playing aspirations, and he would go on to lead their B team before spells at Valladolid, Osasuna, Extremadura, Tenerife and Valencia. It was at the latter where he made a name for himself, winning two league titles and the UEFA Cup before leaving for Liverpool in 2004.
Benitez spent six years at Anfield, winning the FA Cup in 2006 and, most memorably of all, the UEFA Champions League the previous year. He then had a stint at Inter Milan before making a controversial return to England with Chelsea, leading them to the UEFA Europa League. Most recently he has won the Coppa Italia with Napoli, but he now feels he is heading home.
“It’s an emotional day returning here to my home,” said the Spaniard, who becomes the 10th Real coach of the Florentino Perez era. “I have a good technical team behind me and I hope things go well, that we win titles and the team plays well. When you have a roster with such quality you have to attack, to try to score goals, and to win if possible playing attractive football.”
As usual, there is likely to be movement in the playing personnel at Real before next season begins. The Bernabeu giants are widely expected to make a move for Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, whilst Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling is also a reported target. However, Benitez said: “We will evaluate everything in time. We will not name names today.”