Rafa Benitez has been talking about his philosophy as a football manager.
The Newcastle manager saying that he believes leadership is about ‘Setting a good example, and little by little, gaining the trust of those around you.’
As a manager, Rafa says that when taking a job, it has always been important to ‘understand the culture and needs’ of each new club.
The NUFC boss explaining that ‘You have to understand what all of this means to the fans if you want a good relationship with them’, especially when it comes to local rivalries such as Newcastle and Sunderland.
Rafa Benitez also believes that you need a core of experienced players to help you manager the team/squad and dressing room: ‘To do this, it helps to have three or four players in every team that have the experience, knowledge and intelligence to reinforce those messages with the rest of the team.’
The United boss has often said how much faith he puts in captain Jamaal Lascelles on and off the pitch, as well as telling other players to follow the example the likes of Matt Ritchie sets, in terms of workrate and commitment.
Rafa Benitez has been interviewed by The Manager, an LMA (League Managers Association) official magazine, here are a few extracts,
Going abroad to coach was a great challenge for me.
‘It was also a challenge because of the language barrier. I speak Italian, some French from my school days, and English, but I hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be to communicate my messages in the way I wanted with the players. I was confident, though, that I could make a positive impact at the club and with the players. To improve my English, I took lessons, immersed myself in the country’s culture, watched English television programmes and listened to the radio whenever I was driving.’
Leadership means being yourself.
‘It’s about setting a good example and, little by little, gaining the trust of those around you.’
I’ve always tried to understand the culture and needs of my clubs.
‘It’s important to be approachable to the fans and it has been an advantage to me to have managed in England, Italy and Spain, as I’ve learned about their cultures and people and have been able to adapt each time I’ve moved to a new club.
‘When I was manager of Napoli, I walked around the city and spoke to the fans, which was fantastic. I discovered how proud they are of their city. In Milan, with Inter, there was the intense competition with AC Milan, then in England you have the rivalries between, say, Liverpool and Manchester United or Everton, Newcastle and Sunderland. You have to understand what all of this means to the fans if you want a good relationship with them.’
More experienced players can help to manage the dressing room.
‘They can guide the younger players and help ensure everyone is working to the same goals. That means the manager needs to be honest with the players about what they think the team can achieve. Your job is to encourage them every day, week in, week out, to reach one target at a time towards the ultimate goal.
‘Leadership groups within the team can also be valuable. After all, you can’t be with the players every moment of every day. As the manager, you have to make sure that you give the players the right messages, that they agree with those messages and that they’re able to carry out your instructions. To do this, it helps to have three or four players in every team that have the experience, knowledge and intelligence to reinforce those messages with the rest of the team.’
I don’t like to be too negative after a defeat.
‘I give the players a little time and then the next day we’ll analyse the video footage and start working on what we can do to improve and what strengths we can build on. If I need to speak to someone who has made a mistake, I’ll make sure I also show them the positive things they did in the match.’
In Spain, they say you’re not a proper coach until you’ve been sacked.
‘It used to be the case that managers in England were given more time to make a difference, whereas elsewhere in Europe clubs changed their managers more frequently. When I came to Liverpool and signed a five-year contract, I knew it was a massive opportunity and that I could start to build for the future. In the end, I was there for six years before moving to Naples for two years.
‘After that, I was six months at Inter Milan and six months again at Real Madrid. You learn something each time you lose a job like that; it’s valuable experience. You just have to deal with it, acknowledge the events that led to it, including those that are not within your control, and then try to get back into the profession. Each time you take on a new role you have to do your best, take it one game at a time, remain humble and always work hard.’