Rafael Benitez was given a vote of confidence last night by Real Madrid’s president, Florentino Perez, who appeared to blame former coach Carlo Ancelotti coach for Saturday’s El Clasico defeat.
Perez described the 4-0 home defeat by Barcelona as a “horrible” performance and noting the decline dates back to Ancelotti’s reign, added: “The team has undergone gradual deterioration since 1 January.”
However, despite Saturday’s chastening defeat, Benitez retains the support of the Real hierarchy – for the time being at least. Long term, however, both his future and that of star forward Cristiano Ronaldo will remain the subject of much speculation.
Perez denied that the appointment of Benitez last June in place of the popular Ancelotti, has alienated the players.
“He has a good relationship with the players, the directors, and especially with me,” said the Real president. “It was a very bad performance, we all saw that but these things can happen. It was a horrible game but it was just one game.”
Perez also denied that Benitez, who has been criticised by fans and media alike for possessing what they perceive to be a defensive mindset, was being told which players to pick. This was a reference to the surprisingly attacking line-up Benitez picked on Saturday at the expense of players he has favoured so far this season.
“He [Benitez] has full autonomy to do what he thinks right and what is best for the club,” he said. “No coach here has ever said that he has team selections suggested to him.”
Perez denied that Monday’s vote of confidence was comparable to the one issued to Ancelotti last season, shortly before the Italian coach was sacked.
“There was a front page saying that if Ancelotti loses he would be sacked and I came out to deny it,” Perez said. “This is different.” But he added: “What happens between now and six months no one can say.
The suggestion that Cristiano Ronaldo had come to him with the ultimatum, “It’s Benitez or me,” was also dismissed. Perez said: “Ronaldo has never said, ‘With this coach we will never win’.”
Perez also rejected claims made in the Spanish press at the weekend that he had dined with the president of Paris Saint-Germain, Nasser al-Khelaifi, and Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, on the eve of El Clasico.
“If we let Benitez work I am sure we will win things,” Perez said.
Notwithstanding this less than enthusiastic vote of confidence, the expectation remains that both he and Ronaldo will not be with the club next season.