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How Rafa Benitez Failed And Still Managed To Play An Absolute Blinder

How Rafa Benitez Failed And Still Managed To Play An Absolute Blinder
By Gary Reilly Updated

He may be one of the coldest men in football when it comes to interacting with his players but Rafa Benitez is a man who loves to be loved. He'll never be one to wear is heart on his sleeve but even though the Newcastle job seemed like a hiding to nothing when he took it on, the reality is that there wasn't a place in world football more suited to the Benitez brand of 'no one understands us and that's okay'.

A reviled authoritarian already in place to rile against and a famously passionate fan base so starved of success that even the feint whiff of some European pedigree was enough to push them towards hero worship before the journey even began. The fact that he didn't even need a summer of asking for a table and receiving a lamp to get the wheel turning is a testament to just how good of a job he's done in selecting his latest project.

The truth of the matter is, Benitez failed to do what he was brought in to do. Newcastle are going to be in the Championship next season, but he failed in such a manner that he's coming out of it smelling of roses. It's the eternal Rafa conundrum. Those on the outside looking in simply can't understand it but when you're one of those in the inner circle, Rafa has an almost unique power to make you overlook the failures and concentrate on the success to a degree that can only really work at the bastions of blind optimism that are Anfield or St James' Park.

In failing to beat Aston Villa, Newcastle fully displayed why they deserved to be relegated and yet Benitez has still managed to come away with fans chanting his name and praying that he stays with them through the tribulations of the Championship. And they're entirely correct to be doing that. It's quite possible there's no one on earth that would do a better job for them but one way or another, the Spaniard is coming out of this as a winner.

Speaking after the classic Benitez performance of turning up for the moral victory, the former Liverpool boss addressed the question that all Newcastle fans want him to answer, will he be the one to guide them back to the Premier League?

I will talk with [managing director] Lee Charnley and after we will see where we are. I said I am quite open and really pleased with everything. Now it’s just to be sure we have to do what we have to do to be sure that we can go up.

My heart is obviously telling me yes [to stay], it is a fantastic opportunity, fantastic atmosphere. Everything is so good that my heart is very clear but at the same time you have to use the brain, both things have to go together.

I have the same feeling as the fans, they want a strong team for next season to be sure we can go up again. It will not be difficult to have similar ideas but we have to sit down and be sure that everything is fine.

He can talk about heart all he wants but Benitez is a man who uses his brain. And his brain has got to be telling him that he's nothing short of a miracle worker for starting the season at Real Madrid, taking over at Newcastle, getting relegated and still coming out with his reputation enhanced.

As displayed by Martin Hardy in the Sunday Times yesterday, there's a special something to Benitez that ensures he'll never be short of work in England;


At the Newcastle training ground yesterday morning the staff showed Rafa Benitez a video; first of the Liverpool supporters singing his song, and then of the Newcastle supporters doing the same. As he would later accept, there was no difference.

If he chooses to stay with Newcastle, he'll no doubt do so on the provision that he'll be given the kind of budget that should blow any other Championship squad out of the water. If he decides to leave, there'll be no shortage of offers on the table from clubs who want a bit of that Benitez magic sprinkled over whatever luckless situation can be conjured up. One way or another, it'll be an intriguing sideshow to see how it plays out over the next couple of weeks and all we can say is fair play Rafa, you've played a blinder once again.

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