Rafael Benitez has been one of European football's most successful managers since the turn of the millennium, with the Spaniard most notably winning the Champions League, Club World Cup, La Liga and FA Cup across his 29-year senior managerial career.
With over 1,000 games in the dugout, Benitez has taken charge of 14 teams in four different countries, among them some of the biggest names in world football in Real Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea and Inter Milan.
However, the Spaniard started out with much more humble beginnings.
Rafa Benitez: The early days
A two-year spell between 1993 and 1995 at Real Madrid Castilla, the club's reserve side - interspersed with being Vicente Del Bosque's assistant manager of the senior team - preceded two disastrous spells at Real Valladolid and Osasuna, respectively.
The former dismissed him after just 29 games as the club languished bottom of La Liga, with Benitez picking up just two wins from the final 23 games of his tenure. Osasuna then chose to part company with Benitez even sooner, after only 11 games in the Segunda División. His opening two managerial jobs yielded win percentages of just 17 and 27 per cent, statistically the two worst records of his career.
However, a lifeline at the now-defunct Extremadura in 1997 in the Segunda División proved Benitez's capabilities. He led the club to second-place in the table, earning promotion to La Liga for only their second season in Spain's top flight. He failed to stave off relegation, though, and duly quit at the end of the 1998-99 season as he took a year out from management.
His next job, at Tenerife, saw Benitez earn another promotion to La Liga, leading to Valencia to come knocking on his door to offer him their vacant managerial position. From there, his career really started to flourish.
Valencia and Liverpool
In just three years at Valencia, Benitez led them to two La Liga titles and UEFA Cup glory, winning over half of the games he took charge of to cause Europe's elite to sit up and take notice. His resignation from Valencia in June 2004, due to a difference of opinions with the club's hierarchy, only saw him out of a job for two weeks, as Liverpool sharply acted to appoint him as their new manager.
Heralded on Merseyside (well, at least the red side), Benitez recovered Liverpool to European glory in 2005 with the most iconic comeback in football history. 3-0 down to heavily fancied favourites AC Milan, Liverpool looked down and out. However, Benitez rallied his players, and ultimately ended up winning on penalties.
Champions League glory ensured Benitez tasted European success twice in as many years, too. He nearly earned another Champions League victory in 2007, but lost to AC Milan in Athens. While the 2006 FA Cup is the only domestic success Benitez enjoyed, a strong title challenge in the 2008/09 season and finishing as runner-up in the 2006 League Cup proved his managerial acumen and reinforces why Liverpool fans regard him so highly.
Indeed, 194 wins from 350 games provided supporters with more good days than bad, and his 55 per cent win percentage is the greatest at any club where he has managed for more than a season.
A seventh-place finish with the Reds in 2010 saw Benitez dismissed, with Inter Milan deciding to appoint him as Jose Mourinho's replacement. Benitez won the Supercoppa Italian and Club World Cup with Inter, before heading back to England in 2012, this time with Chelsea as interim manager.
During his brief spell at Chelsea, he won the 2013 Europa League. He went back to Italy at the end of his contract, this time with Napoli, where domestic success in the Copa Italia and more Supercoppa Italia followed. However, he resigned at the end of the 2014/15 season. Real Madrid had come calling.
More than 20 years after managing the club's reserve side, and having celebrated considerable success in Real Madrid's youth sides, this seemed like a dream come true for Benitez. Quickly, though, it turned into a nightmare.
Despite winning 17 of the 25 games he managed, the club's hierarchy sacked him amid discontent among supporters. He had lost just three games and his win percentage was 68 per cent when he left at the start of January 2016.
The return to the Premier League (plus China)
Perhaps the only other place where Benitez is as loved as he is in Liverpool would be in Newcastle, the club he took charge of a couple of months after his Real Madrid exit. Unable to help the club survive relegation, Benitez remained in charge of Newcastle as they stormed to the Championship title and back to the Premier League.
Newcastle won 29 of the 46 league games that season, and Benitez continued to help the club consolidate its position back in England's top flight for the next two seasons. He stepped down at the end of his contract in 2019, due to disagreements with then-owner Mike Ashley.
Not devoid of offers, Benitez opted to ply his trade elsewhere in the world following managing Newcastle, taking charge of Chinese club Dalian Professional. Across 38 games in 18 months, the Spaniard won just 12 games, earning him a poor win rate of 32 per cent.
He left at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, Benitez managed at Everton, where he lasted just six-and-a-half months.
His tumultuous period in charge on the blue side of Merseyside ended prematurely, as he lasted just 22 games. In the final 13 league games of his tenure, Benitez could only muster up one win as his dismissal looked inevitable.
Is there more left in the tank for Rafa?
Benitez's reign yielded a win percentage of just 32 per cent at Everton - a dramatic downfall from his heady days at Liverpool, where he enjoyed a 55 per cent win rate, a 58 per cent win percentage during his interim spell at Chelsea, and 43 per cent at Newcastle.
Indeed, Benitez's Everton time in charge was the the second-worst record in the club's Premier League era, worsened only by Mike Walker in 1994. However, the two-time La Liga, Champions League and two-time UEFA Cup/Europa League winner has experienced plenty of success during his career, and, at 62 years old, there is potential he still has many more games left to oversee.
In total, Rafa Benitez has taken charge of 1,170 games as a manager, winning 572, drawing 280 and losing 318, giving him a win record of 49 per cent.
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