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The wit and wisdom of Rafael Benítez

As SSC Napoli's Rafael Benítez prepares to face compatriots Athletic Club at the Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday, UEFA.com profiles the Spaniard in quotes.

Rafael Benítez is looking to return to the group stage with Napoli
Rafael Benítez is looking to return to the group stage with Napoli ©Getty Images

On Napoli fans ...
The people from Naples are fantastic. They work hard every day to have enough at the end of the month. Football for them is not just a game, it's sort of social redemption.

On the perfect coach ...
The perfect coach does not exist, and the perfect footballer does not exist either. Everybody can improve technically, physically or tactically, no doubt about that. For me, football is 80% with the ball and 20% in the gym, maybe even less. I'm a teacher and I love to teach on the pitch.

Athletic Club coach Ernesto Valverde on Benítez ...
If you had to pick a Spanish coach who has led the way for his peers in making an international name for himself, it is Rafa Benítez. At Valencia, where he was able to challenge the supremacy of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish league, and then his move to Liverpool with his success there, have been defining moments for the recognition of Spanish coaches generally at a global level. His way of working and his organisation have given us all a reference point so we can learn from him, and we continue to do so.

On winning the 2003/04 UEFA Cup with Valencia CF …
There was a very good mentality, a winning team. We won the Spanish league twice after 31 years. We saw at the time that this team had the quality, the character, a very good team spirit. And the UEFA Cup at this time was quite difficult – we played against Marseille with [Didier] Drogba. It was a very good team but we had also a very strong mentality.

Rafael Benítez lifts European silverware
Rafael Benítez lifts European silverware©Sportsfile

On winning the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League with Chelsea FC …
My success? It depends on your perceptions. When you put it all together, what we've managed in terms of keeping the squad together and coping with injuries, I think we've done well. You have to win for people to realise what you're trying to do. We won, so hopefully everyone now knows.

On winning the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League with Liverpool FC …
I don't have words to express what I feel at the moment. You concede in the first minute, you lose Harry Kewell, players go down with cramp and it's very difficult. We tried to change things at half-time and said it would be different if we scored – and it was. But the players believed and we won. Steven Gerrard is a key player for us, he has the mentality.

Gerrard on Benítez's contribution to the final effort …
All credit to Benítez, he wouldn't let us put our heads down. He told us the game wasn't over and we knew if we got an early goal, we were back in it. This is the best feeling of my life. How could I think about leaving Liverpool after a night like this?

On his approach to playing in finals …
If it's possible to play well we will try, for sure. But I just prefer to score one more goal than them.

Benítez's major honours
Valencia: Liga (2002, 2004), UEFA Cup (2004)
Liverpool: UEFA Champions League (2005), UEFA Super Cup (2005), FA Cup (2006)
Inter: FIFA Club World Cup (2010)
Chelsea: UEFA Europa League (2013)
Napoli: Coppa Italia (2014)

On how he likes his sides to play …
A passing game or direct football is one side or the other [of the equation]. You always have something in between. So I like to have control, but at the same time if you have to play the counterattack, you have to play the counterattack. So you have to adapt yourself to your team and also to the opponents. My idea has always been trying to have control, trying to use wingers if possible and now with very clever [movement] between the lines, this is another way to play. It's about managing the squad you have, but with the aim to have balance.

On the experience of getting sacked ...
It is always an experience because, the way football works, it's very difficult to keep a job. In England they appreciate a coach's career more, but elsewhere, like Spain, every three months you are under enormous pressure. But the fact that they get rid of you, if you use it well, can help you grow.

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