Over the course of a distinguished managerial career, Rafael Benitez has forged a reputation as one of the most respected tacticians in world football.
A winner of 13 major trophies, Benitez has lifted silverware in Spain, England and Italy. He was appointed Everton manager in June 2021, succeeding Carlo Ancelotti.
Benitez’s coaching credentials were cultivated at a young age after his playing days were brought to a premature end due to injury at the age of 26.
His first professional coaching position was at the Real Madrid Academy – the same club he learned his trade as an emerging young footballer.
Benitez led Real’s Under-19s to two league titles and was promoted to the position of Real Madrid B manager in 1993. In two years with the side, who play in the second tier of professional football in Spain, he guided them to sixth and eighth-place finishes.
Benitez left Madrid to take the reins at Real Valladolid in 1995 and, while his time there and his next club, Osasuna, was brief, he would soon establish himself as a high-calibre manager.
The Spaniard won promotions from Segunda Division to the Spanish top tier in his first seasons in charge at both Extremadura and Tenerife. His work attracted the attention of La Liga giants Valencia, where he was appointed manager in summer 2001.
Benitez’s maiden campaign at the helm saw him lead the club to a first league championship in 31 years.
His team blended steel and style to storm to the title by seven points, with an exceptional run-in to the season leaving rivals in their wake. Valencia won 10 and drew one of their final 12 matches.
Benitez racked up another La Liga triumph with Valencia in 2003/04, finishing five points ahead of second-placed Barcelona, and they completed a historic double by beating Marseille 2-0 in the UEFA Cup final.
Benitez left his home country for the Premier League after that campaign and was named Liverpool manager in summer 2004.
His first season in England saw him lift a second European trophy in as many years as the Anfield club won the Champions League following a dramatic final victory over AC Milan.
Benitez’s six-year stint in charge at Liverpool also saw him win the FA Cup in 2005/06, while they finished runners-up in the 2006/07 Champions League and 2008/09 Premier League.
Benitez was named as Jose Mourinho’s successor at Inter Milan in June 2010. He would stay with Inter for only six months but still guided the team to the Italian Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup during that period.
He returned to the Premier League in November 2012 to take over at Chelsea on an interim basis until the end of the season. As well as stabilising Chelsea’s league results – they eventually finished third in the table – Benitez added another major trophy as the west London side won the Europa League, overcoming Benfica 2-1 in the final in Amsterdam.
Serie A and Napoli was the next port of call for Benitez in 2013, where his reputation for swiftly constructing teams capable of competing for silverware was further enhanced.
His first season at Napoli culminated with a Coppa Italia final triumph over Fiorentina, while they ended the league campaign in third place to bank Champions League qualification.
Benitez’s side beat champions Juventus to win the 2014 Italian Super Cup but he left the club at the end of 2014/15 after a fifth-placed Serie A finish.
Benitez’s football career came full circle in summer 2015 when he was named Real Madrid manager but his time in charge of Los Blancos lasted only seven months. He left the club in January 2016, with Real just four points behind La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid.
Newcastle United came calling two months later with the club in the thick of a relegation battle. Benitez oversaw an upturn in results, including a six-match unbeaten run to conclude the campaign, as the Magpies fell just short in their bid to remain in the top-flight due to their poor form before Benitez’s arrival.
Newcastle’s stay outside the Premier League was short-lived as Benitez’s side were promoted back to the top tier as Championship winners in 2016/17.
He successfully solidified Newcastle’s Premier League status over the following two campaigns before leaving the north-east club in June 2019.
Benitez joined Chinese Super League side Dalian Professional one month later where, as well as managing the senior team, he helped to oversee the development of Dalian’s academy and implement a club-wide football philosophy.
He left Dalian in January 2021, citing the need to support his family during the coronavirus pandemic.
Away from football, Benitez has been a philanthropist with his wife Montse, who launched her charity the Montse Benitez Foundation to raise money for local charities in Liverpool and Wirral through events, auctions and other activities.
The couple also support Liverpool Women’s Hospital and the Hillsborough Families Support Group.