Body swap may be best option for under-fire Rafa

The Real Madrid boss doesn’t even have to oversee any games to get yet more stick than before, writes Tim Stannard...

“Welcome home, good sir!” “Merry Christmas to everyone!” “Season's greetings and ho-ho-ho!” “All the best to ya’ guvnor!” were just some of the welcome messages from jolly chimney sweepers and scamps, cooks and cockle-sellers at Madrid’s Barajas airport on Boxing Day. And Rafa Benítez was tickled completely pink on his return to Spain after spending the Yuletide period in his picturesque abode on the Wirral, reading glad tidings from the Spanish capital with nothing but good cheer and salutations to his name.

But then Rafa woke up as the EasyJet flight from Liverpool hit the tarmac of Barajas airport. On entering the arrivals zone, a reporter from a Spanish TV network was there to greet the Real Madrid manager, rushing behind him to ask if he was about to be sacked. Then, cries of “Resign!” “Get back to the B team!” greeted him via some airport patrons, according to the AS hack also handily on site to welcome poor Rafa home.

Zizou waiting

Had Rafa been insane enough to read the Madrid papers then he’d have seen nothing but praise for Zinedine Zidane

With no games to fixate on over the Christmas period, the pressure on Benítez has been cranked up a notch in the Spanish press, with the goodwill for all humankind concept somewhat lacking. AS summed up the rather mean-spirited coverage with a front page on Boxing Day declaring that the Madrid manager was in his ‘bunker’ – or house, as it is sometimes called – and not leaving until a return to Madrid on Saturday.

Had Rafa been insane enough to read the Madrid papers then he’d have seen nothing but praise for Zinedine Zidane, who’s hovering in the wings to take over, and condemnation of the job done by Benítez himself. Marca posted a useful top 10 of things Rafa needs to change in 2016, including having a perfect game, giving the players less tactical work and doing a body swap with Carlo Ancelotti. Actually, the last part was a handy suggestion by LLL.

Zinedine Zidane

Zizou's promotion is a matter of when, not if

“The future of Benítez is hanging by a thread,” warned Sunday’s edition, suggesting Florentino had been persuaded that Rafa had to go, despite coming out on a weekly basis and declaring that his hand-picked boss was completely the right man for the job.

Matter of time

The win-win situation might be for Florentino to let Rafa return to his abode in the north-west of England with a stack of cash

The only way that Benítez cannot be affected by what is fundamentally a media campaign – Madrid are just two points off the top of the table, albeit with Barcelona having a match in hand – is to possess skin thicker than Jabba the Hutt.

Or perhaps Rafa knowing the Spanish media world by now means that the former Liverpool man was forewarned and forearmed for what was coming. After all, due to the firing fetish of Florentino, being Real Madrid boss is a fine gig considering you only need to do one or two years’ work for the salary of three.

Luis Enrique, Rafa Benitez

"Don't be silly Rafa, you can't switch with me"

The win-win situation might be for Florentino to let Rafa return to his abode in the north-west of England with a stack of cash, let the local media calm down a bit and then potentially ruin the life of a certain brilliant Frenchman who has already admitted that he is not yet ready for the Real Madrid mantle.  

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