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One Champions League and no league titles in a decade - Benitez matches Madrid's mediocrity

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football

The news is finally official: Rafael Benitez is the new coach of Real Madrid. The former Valencia, Liverpool, Chelsea and Napoli boss was announced on Wednesday by Los Blancos and is delighted to be back at the club where he started out.

But not everybody is happy.

Many Real fans, along with most of the players and the majority of the Madrid media wanted former coach Carlo Ancelotti to stay for another season. The Italian, after all, had led Real to their holy grail - a 10th European Cup. La Decima. He also achieved four titles in a calendar year, something no other trainer had managed in the club's entire 113-year history.

But it was not enough. Ancelotti was dismissed last week after failing to finish the season with a major trophy and Benitez is the next in line. "We need a new impulse," Madrid president Florentino Perez told the press pack as he announced the end of the Italian's two-year tenure. It didn't sound convincing.

As the season came to an end and Real's hopes of La Liga and Champions League success evaporated, the word in Madrid was that the club would only replace Ancelotti if they could find someone better. Zinedine Zidane is being earmarked as a future Real coach, but had failed to win promotion with Castilla, while long-time target Joachim Low was unavailable and none of the other candidates seemed suitable, either.

So it was perhaps surprising that Madrid turned to Benitez. An astute tactician, the 55-year-old is not known for an exciting brand of football, has not won a league title since 2004 and has only secured the Champions League on one occasion - way back in 2005 when Liverpool beat AC Milan in Istanbul. That's 10 years without winning one of the top trophies and it begs the question: Is Rafa really an upgrade on Ancelotti?

On the plus side, he is a Spanish coach who knows the club after representing Real Madrid Castilla for seven years as a player and later kicking off his coaching career with the same side in 1993. Benitez always said Madrid was the job he could not turn down and now his dream has become a reality. But is he up to the task?
His record suggests he is not. Ancelotti came to Madrid as a two-time Champions League winner and made history by winning La Decima in his first season at the club. Benitez, meanwhile, arrives as a coach who has enjoyed some success at previous clubs but probably not enough to be courted by a side like Real.

Since 2002, Madrid have won only 14 trophies. In that time, Benitez has claimed 12 (three at Valencia, five with Liverpool, two for Inter, one at Chelsea and two with Napoli). In addition, both Real and their new coach have won only one Champions League apiece in the last decade and also underachieved in the league during that period (Madrid have claimed La Liga four times in the last 13 years, Benitez twice - both with Valencia in 2002 and 2004).

So since he began to coach top-flight teams, Rafa's record matches Madrid's mediocrity. Only time will tell whether, together, they can do any better. The signs, however, don't look particularly positive.

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