Benitez: External problems hampered me at Madrid


Former Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez claimed external problems derailed his tenure, insisting he had a good relationship with the players.

Benitez was sacked as coach in January amid strong reports of dressing room unrest, just seven months into a three-year deal in Madrid.

His replacement, Zinedine Zidane, went on to guide Madrid to Champions League glory as well as a second-place finish in La Liga in 2015-16.

Benitez has since moved on to Newcastle United - now playing in England's Championship - but reflecting on his spell in the Spanish capital, the 56-year-old said everything was working well internally at the Santiago Bernabeu, contrary to reports, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe and Sergio Ramos among the players at odds with the former boss.

"It was a little strange. At first I was expecting to take a job in the Premier League, but then Madrid came calling," Benitez told Fox Sports Italy. "It was the fourth time that they had approached me - the team of my city, of my life, and it was time to say yes.

"I arrived at a great club and there everything has to be perfect, but I think we did a good job. It's not always possible to control everything that's going on around the team.

"The president wanted to do well in La Liga, clearly that was his priority, and to do that you need to have a side beyond just big names, where quality players really make a difference. That's my way of working. That was my idea, but then things weren't going so well, and for me they weren't going well at more of an external level than internal level, because the team was working well.

"We were two points off Barcelona and we'd qualified from our Champions League group. I'll repeat it, it was more of an external thing than internal."

On the relationship with the Madrid players, Benitez added: "Our relationship was good. In a team there are those who play a lot and others who don't, but clearly my relationship with the majority was perfect as they are very professional people.

"When you bring in a new coach, things change, but I think the positive thing was that I had to go there and I did. I wanted to create a group capable of winning the league, but in the end I wasn't able to. You have to look forward, and now I have an exciting project at Newcastle in front of me."