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Benitez Handed Reigns at Newcastle

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Newcastle are in deep relegation trouble. That is a fact. They currently occupy nineteenth spot in the Premier League. That is a fact. They have now turned to former Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli and Real Madrid boss Rafael Benitez in a bid to stave of relegation. That is also a fact.

Benitez is a manager who is used to fighting for titles, both in domestic and European competitions. He started this season at Real Madrid, tasked with winning the Champions League and La Liga. The fans didn’t take to him and emulating Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho was always going to be difficult. Real’s policy of having a Galactico on the touchline as well as several on the pitch meant that Benitez always seemed like an odd fit.

Benitez’s appointment was all the more surprising seeing as he had failed to take Napoli on to the next level. He won a Coppa Italia but failed to mount a serious title challenge or take them into the latter stages of the Champions League. He had done a decent job, but by no means nothing spectacular.

His two biggest achievements in football came at Valencia and Liverpool. Winning two La Liga titles and a UEFA Cup with the Spanish club, Rafa established himself as one of the hottest properties in football. At Liverpool he failed to win the Premier League but was part of one the club’s most famous nights, Istanbul in 2005. 3-0 down at half-time, Liverpool fought back to take the Champions League final to penalties, where his Liverpool side eventually overcame AC Milan.

After leaving Liverpool, he endured the worst spell of his managerial career as Inter Milan’s manager. The season before he took charge Inter had won an unprecedented treble with Jose Mourinho at the helm. With just six wins from 15 Serie A games, Benitez was sacked.

It was almost two years until Benitez returned to management, taking on the role of Chelsea manager on an interim basis. With the club in danger of missing out on the top four, Benitez guided them to third place in the Premier League and won the Europa League.

Despite his ordeal at Real, Benitez’s stock remains high. Make no mistake, his appointment is a coup for Newcastle. That said, he has little experience of relegation battles and is used to coaching players of a better quality. At Real he had Ronaldo, at Newcastle he will have Andros Townsend. At Liverpool he had Gerrard, at Newcastle he will have Jack Colback. At Napoli he had Higuain, at Newcastle he will have Papiss Cisse.

If Benitez can keep Newcastle up this season, he is the ideal man to finally unlock the potential of the St James’ Park side. He knows what a club needs to challenge at the right end of the table. Mike Ashley has said he wants to win trophies, and in Rafa he has appointed someone who is an expert in the field. Benitez is a control freak, but this may be a good thing. He will demand control over transfers, which will no doubt be a good thing for Newcastle. Too much money has been wasted and a scouting system which once found Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba has more recently found Remy Cabella and Emmanuel Riviere.

Benitez was loved by the Liverpool and by the end of his spell in charge of Chelsea he had won most of their supporters over. The Geordie faithful have had difficult relationships with their managers recently, but if Benitez can save them this season and move the club forward, it won’t be long before the Newcastle fans are singing his name. Despite their plight, Newcastle’s destiny remains in the own hands, and Rafa may well be the man to lead Newcastle into a much brighter future.

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