Rafa: I signed Raul for Real Madrid
Nine-times European Cup winners Real meet five-times champions Liverpool in the Spanish capital on Wednesday night in the Champions League last 16.
The side are meeting for the first time, competitively, since the 1981 final in Paris, when an Alan Kennedy strike secured a 1-0 win for the Merseysiders.
And ahead of the clash at the Bernabeu, Reds boss Benitez has claimed that opponents Real may never have signed forward Raul - who recently became the club's all-time leading goalscorer, surpassing the great Alfredo Di Stefano - if it had not been for him.
“Raul was in the Atlético Madrid youth team when I decided to sign him for Madrid," he told El Mundo. "I hardly used him in the end, because he went straight up to the first team and did not return.”
While Raul himself says that, although his time under Benitez was brief, he could see the perfectionist in Rafa from an early age.
''I was only with him for a week,'' he said, as reported by The Guardian. ''I had never seen a coach study every little detail so profoundly."
The 31-year-old netted his 311th league goal for the Madridistas in 688 outings at the weekend in Real's 6-1 mauling of Real Betis at the Bernabeu, a result that makes Juande Ramos' side slight favourites against Liverpool, held to their fifth league home draw in seven against Manchester City on Sunday.
And Benitez says he would rather have met the reigning La Liga champions in May's final, setting up a repeat of the 1981 European Cup showpiece at the Parc des Princes.
“I would have liked to have met Real Madrid in the final in Rome," he said. "Not for any sentimental reason, but because Madrid is a big team with very many good players.”
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