Rafa Benitez reveals how his three years at Newcastle United have improved him as a coach

Rafa Benitez says he’s a better manager than ever ahead of his third anniversary at Newcastle United.

Saturday, 9th March 2019, 4:00 am
Rafa Benitez is unveiled at Newcastle three years ago.

Benitez – who has won trophies throughout his long career in the dugout – will celebrate the anniversary at St James’s Park on Monday.

The 58-year-old stayed at Newcastle in the wake of relegation in 2016 and guided the club to the Championship title.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

While Benitez hasn’t managed in Europe during his time at United, he believes he’s a better manager now than he was when he succeeded Steve McClaren at the club.

“My father was telling me you can do the same job for 30 years, and only have one year of experience,” said Benitez, who could leave the club in the summer when his contract expires.

“Or you can change things every year and have 30 years of experience. That’s exactly what it’s been like for me. I was talking to the kids when I was 30 years old – I was already a coach. Every year, I’m watching games, reading magazines and taking notes, and all my life has been spent this way.

“I received information about new software, and I will check that out. Every day, I’m learning. Battling relegation, winning promotion from the Championship, I won two promotions in Spain, but it’s not the same.

Rafa Benitez is unveiled at Newcastle three years ago.

“It’s not my country, where I know everything – it’s a different country, and I’ve had to learn things.

“I’ve gained massive experience, I’m getting better every day, because I’m always learning.”

The highlights of Benitez’s time at Newcastle so far have been the Championship title and last season’s 10th-placed finish.

Benitez, however, has been frustrated by a lack of backing in the transfer market.

Rafa Benitez.

Asked about his time at United, Benitez said: “It’s been fine. I like to coach my players and I like to compete during the games, to try to do well and win.

“In the Championship, it was a great achievement. I’m talking about that, because people said we had the strongest team, but look at this season.

“It’s so difficult to do that, and we did it. After that, we finished 10th. The challenge for me as a manager has been really good. Hopefully, this year will be the same.”

On living in Newcastle, Benitez said: “Like in Milan, Naples or Liverpool, you cannot live in the city centre. I like to be close to the training ground. I’m fine – I like where I live. The fans are good, and the people respect the job I’ve done and they love the club.”

Benitez had a number of offers after leaving Real Madrid, his boyhood club, in January 2016.

Asked what attracted him to United, Benitez said: “It’s a big club with great potential, and my family are in England. I wanted to stay in England to do something at this club.”

Newcastle, just like when Benitez arrived, are battling to stay in the Premier League, but things are different behind the scenes.

“It’s not the same, and I will tell you why,” said Benitez. “When we just arrived, we had 13 injuries. Now almost everybody is fit.

“We have some players that have experience. We lost very, very important players when we were relegated. You see they are playing in the Premier League – (Andros) Townsend, (Moussa) Sissoko, (Daryl) Janmaat, (Georginio) Wijnaldum.

“We lost something but little by little we were building something new. What do we have now? We have a team that we know and everybody cares and everybody is focused. So it’s different.”