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PROFILE Valencia rewarded for faith in Benitez

Monday 13th May 2002

Rafa Benitez is the working man's football coach with a philosophy of hard work and common objectives combined with a no frills approach that often prove to be other trainers downfall.

The fact that he has guided Valencia to their first Spanish title in 31 seasons will bring the shy and retiring 42-year-old even more adulation and attention.

But Benitez does not find life in the public eye easy and will be more than happy for his players to take all the praise and furore that surrounds their triumph away from him.

Upon winning the title he was quick to turn the spotlight away from himself.

"This has been a complete team effort," he explained. "The players, the supporters, the coaching staff and the directors of the club have helped make history."

But Benitez is now ranked among Spain's best coaches and will know all too well that this amount of success in his first season will only bring more pressure upon him.

Benitez was hired twelve months ago to replace the Inter-bound Hector Cuper who had led Valencia to two successive Champions' League finals before complaining that he was not receiving enough support at the club.

Stepping into Cuper's shoes was hard enough for Benitez, knowing that he was not Valencia's first choice further magnified the task ahead.

Having seen what the club could achieve Valencia believed that only a big-name coach would help them finally pin down one of the major trophies. Benitez was not the man they initially wanted.

His appointment was met with an almost deafening response of 'who?' despite the fact that he had just led Tenerife back to the top flight at the first time of asking.

For supporters that are renowned for heckling their own side when they do not produce the flowing football that is demanded, the workmanlike teams that Benitez produced in his first few games did not go down well.

Going into December Valencia were in eighth position and calls for the coach's head began to be heard, despite the fact that they were the last side to beaten in the league and had not lost at home since the start of the season.

The Christmas break could well prove to have been the difference for Benitez. A win at Espanyol, their first away victory of the season, two weeks before the cessation of games, and the return of Ruben Baraja to the squad were timed to perfection.

In the New Year things began to change. Benitez's team began to carve out victories and slowly move up the table, but the new coach stayed tight-lipped and would never speculate on where his side were heading.

But the midfield trio of Baraja, Pablo Aimar and David Albelda began to fulfil their potential and became a key part of the coach's gameplan.

Benitez had produced a team that played with a very strong and compact defence balanced with an attack that saw the whole team move forward to support the strikers.

The fact that 17 different players scored for Valencia on the way to winning the title is testament to Benitez's ethic of teamwork.

He is a born strategist and is known to analyse Valencia's opponents thoroughly before preparing the week's training sessions that would differ depending on the tactics of their next opponents.

This detailed application is what drove El Che to the title and is what could see them progress into the latter stages of the Champions' League next term.

Benitez is also extremely shrewd when playing the transfer market. There will be no panic buying in preparation for the European adventure. Benitez will know precisely what is needed, which player is required and what his target is worth.

His vast knowledge of Spanish football comes from his days as a coach in the lower leagues with Tenerife and Extremadura, both whom he guided into the first division, and Real Madrid B, where he worked closely with Vicente Del Bosque.

Despite having spent his playing days in Spain's Segunda B and third division's, Benitez commands great respect from Valencia's well paid, international players.

He has not only won over his playing staff, but more importantly has the full support of the fans and the press and if his negative style continues to produce more silverware there will be nobody in Valencia calling for him to go.


280 Posts
Well, this article does point out Rafa's qualities and in the end he deserved to be praised like every winner does ...........

But, for the sake of getting complete picture I have to say that he had (just like all winners do) a lot of luck......as labas pointed out earlier it seems like those 8 minutes(against Espanyol) were decisive......frantic 8 minutes that separated us from total agony (even Van Gaal arrival looked like blessing at that point).....

or maybe it just looks like so........

IMO, the REAL turning point was when some of our most important players(Kily,Aimar,Angulo etc.) realized that they're "stuck" (J.Cleese would say "you're stuck with the duck":tongue: )with Benitez and he won't be sacked(I'm not saying that the created situation was all players fault)...and instead of whining that they'll go somewhere else (like Aimar did in the 1st half of the season) they finally shut up(even if they were on the bench) and took their part of responsibility(for what was going on) like real men......and it's almost a rule that results come sooner or later with that kind of attitude (and hardwork)......for example, eventhough it's clear for everyone that Aimar's place is not on the bench, making himself humble and available for Rafa's demands made the spirit of this team much stronger(that goes for some other players too)....on the other hand I'm glad that Benitez didn't take a revenge afterwards (those players where the best in the final stages)......

The other really important moment IMO was the game against Real Madrid...eventhough we lost that game(and we all know how:eek: ) that was the first game after quite a while that we played really good and what's even more important we showed that we can produce quality play (despite all the bashers then:eek: ) and equaly compete with the strongest teams......
The fact that Real was going through a bad period helped us too cos we suddenly found ourselves at the top with an impression that we can actually do something(what made our team just more united)......

And last, but not the least is rotation system Benitez used with enough courage to believe in some new and not so attractive but still good players like (Rufete, Torres, Mista, Los Santos etc.).......

518 Posts
well said Plotinus

Now , where's Momo to play the spoiler role?
:D :eek: :cool: :D
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