The decision by Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez to replace Carlo Ancelotti with Rafa Benitez was met with skepticism by Madrid fans this summer. After Sunday’s Madrid derby, the feelings of the Madridista’s has not changed after Rafa parked the bus at the Vicente Calderón in an attempt to get a 1-0 win. A move that backfired when Atletico scored late to tie the match.
In the wake of the Madrid derby, MARCA (the unofficial mouthpiece of the club) has been hammering Benitez hard for his tactics with one headline that summed up fans feeling:
First big disappointment
The main criticism of Benitez is that he has been too defensive this season, unwilling to go for the knockout blow on an opponent, a tactic that is alien to the culture at the Bernabéu.
The season is still young, but the Madrid directors will have noticed the whistles from the fans after the Granada and Malaga home games, games where Madrid lacked the cutting edge and thrust that they had under Mourinho and Ancelotti.
The negative approach by Benitez has not won him any friends in the Madrid dressing room. Captain Sergio Ramos was very pointed in the criticism of his manager and his tactics in the derby saying:
“We did things really well, but the team played far too deep towards the end of the game. The Vicente Calderón is a tough ground to play at and you just end up focusing on finishing the game, holding on and not looking for a goal”.
Striker Karim Benzema is another player who is upset with Rafa’s tactics of replacing him late in games. Benzema has been taken off five times this season and is getting frustrated at not finishing games:
“It’s true I’m fed up of being taken off,” he told AS.
“It’s true that the electronic board always shows the No.9. Ask Benitez why that is.
“I’m calm and will continue to work so I’m not always subtituted. He took me off to get a result, for defensive reasons.
“Substitutions are what the coach decides, I’m just there to help my team-mates.”
The big elephant in the dressing room is Cristiano Ronaldo, who enjoyed a very goof relationship with Ancelotti. He does not have the same kind of rapport with Benitez and there have been reports of several disagreements between the two.
In a season where Barcelona are struggling with injuries and a small squad, the opportunity is there for Real Madrid to establish a big lead before Christmas, and before Barca can bring in reinforcements. If they don’t do that, and continue to play uninspiring football, Rafa’s return to Madrid could be a very short one.