Rafael Benitez, who was harshly treated at Real Madrid under the high-demanding Florentino Perez earlier this season, looks set to take over at Newcastle United after Steve McClaren was sacked following days of severe speculation.
Most football fans recognise the Spanish manager as one who has solely been in charge of big clubs. Indeed, winning the Champions League with Liverpool and La Liga with Valencia are what he is best remembered for, alongside various other managerial ventures with Napoli, Inter Milan and Chelsea.
However, before he won the Spanish domestic title with Valencia in 2002, when trying to gain experience, he did manage clubs which were battling relegation, and so surviving the drop is not a complete novelty for Benitez and is one area where he has not been at all successful.
In the 1995/96 campaign, his first management job came at Real Valladolid, but he was let go of that post after being rock bottom in Spain’s first division after 23 matches. His second job was even worse, where he was sacked at Osasuna in under 10 league matches, although this was in the second division.
His third job, it has to be said, was more of a success, although not in terms of battling relegation. He promoted Extremadura from the second division to La Liga in his maiden season at the club, although this success was to be short-lived as, in the Spanish top-flight, he got relegated and then quit to take a year off from football.
His next job would be at Valencia, which we have seen, was where he was most successful. In short, Benitez has a poor record with managing the smaller teams in Spain and with only 10 games left, it does seem quite a risk for Newcastle United to appoint the Spaniard, instead of, say, Nigel Pearson.
Having said that, Rafael Benitez has gained so much experience, knowledge and tactical skills since those aforementioned early days, and it would be naive to suggest he is not up to the job of keeping Newcastle United in the Premier League. Moreover, if they do survive, then next season should be a return to mid-table football at the very least.
Whether or not Newcastle United survive the drop will, ultimately, be more to do with the players putting effort in, because no matter what exuberant tactics or coaching skills Rafael Benitez might instill in the players, there is one thing he alone cannot improve: their effort.