Last June was a busy month for Florentino Perez. In addition to appointing Rafa Benitez as manager to replace the sacked Carlo Ancelotti, the Real Madrid manager was also overhauling Real Madrid’s youth system. Through a process some called streamlining and others called cost-cutting, Perez disbanded Real Madrid C — the club’s second reserve team, playing in Spain’s fourth division — and excised two other youth sides.
For Benitez, it was an inauspicious start. Benitez himself played for Real Madrid C, having made his start there before spending the vast majority of his professional career with the Castilla, Real Madrid B. The Castilla was also where Benitez got his start as a manager in the 1990s. In 1995, Bentiez’s final season in charge of the reserve side, Perez was defeated in his first attempt to win the Real presidency.
Historically, the Castilla have always been shored up by several scrappy veterans with no chance of ascending to the first team, but Perez did away with that practice in his June overhaul, insisting that the club only sign players with chances of becoming first teamers in the future. There won’t be any more Castilla lifers like Benitez. And now, there won’t be anymore Benitez. The sword unsurprisingly fell on the first workday of 2016. He lasted just seven months.
FLASHBACK – JUNE: Benitez is destined to fail at Real Madrid.
Benitez never had so much as a harelip prayer as Real Madrid manager, and it didn’t take a genius to see it. The only reason he got hired in the first place was because there were no other top managers available. Perez had already hired and fired many of them. The man who is now replacing Benitez, Zinedine Zidane, wasn’t deemed ready to take the hot seat yet.
From the beginning, it was a match made in hell. Benitez is a notoriously defensive coach, and his dour tactics were neither becoming the job nor successful. Real doesn’t just want to win, they want to win with style. Add in Benitez’s grating man-management, the Clásico drubbing at the hands of Barcelona and the Copa del Rey fiasco, and the Benitez era was, predictably, a disaster.
This failure was hardly Benitez’s fault. The embarrassment here is, as usual, Perez’s. His culture of backbiting and tabloid hysteria has created a toxic atmosphere at the club, and his hubris in firing Ancelotti and replacing him with Benitez quickly proved toxic as well.