Rafael Benitez has rubbished claims that he had a rough relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo during their time together at La Liga giants Real Madrid.
The Spaniard only had just over six months in charge of Real Madrid between 2015 and 2016. He came in to replace Carlo Ancelotti.
Benitez was sacked in January 2016 with them third in La Liga. They were beaten 4-0 by Barcelona in the early stages of the campaign and he was reportedly unpopular among players and the club’s supporters.
The 62-year-old has since had spells at Newcastle United and Everton in the Premier League but he is now out of work.
Benitez has now reflected on his time at Real Madrid. He has claimed that he walked into an “unfavourable environment” and players “went to the media to leak” details about internal conflict.
“When we arrived in Madrid, [Carlo] Ancelotti had just left, he had a very good relationship with the players, and it seemed that we arrived with a whip,” Benitez told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser (via The Mirror).
“There was an unfavourable environment: the departure of [Iker] Casillas, Keylor Navas, the arrest of [Karim] Benzema… There are complicated situations. And when everything gets complicated, who pays? Me.
“Cristiano, knowing what he was like, you had to guide him. The problem is when you have to guide seven, some of them don’t play, they’re not happy. And they go to the media to leak it.”
It was also suggested during his time at Real Madrid that Benitez favoured Gareth Bale over Ronaldo and that he had a poor relationship with the ex-Man Utd forward.
He has rubbished this claim and has accused Spanish media of “sharpening this nonsense”.
“It’s another lie. He [Bale] plays with Wales, he catches me next door when I’m in England, it’s common sense. It’s another idiocy that they said at the time. They [the media] sharpened nonsense like that,” Benitez added.
“The only comment I made to Cristiano Ronaldo, as I knew him from Manchester United, is that we analyse how he was shooting free-kicks. We looked at the trajectory, to see if we can make any adjustments, saw we couldn’t and forgot about it.
“It’s my only conversation with him. Everything else is a lie. When he takes free kicks, when I leave, his stats are worse. I was surprised that journalists I knew would say that without talking to me.”
Ronaldo went on to have a spell at Juventus before he returned to Man Utd. His time at United ended on a sour note as he aired his grievances during a controversial interview with Piers Morgan.
The forward subsequently had his contract cancelled and he is now earning around £177m a year to play for Saudi Arabian outfit Al Nassr.
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