Benitez asked the right thing for Ronaldo but in the wrong way

Managing or coaching top players needs more than good technical understanding on the training ground. This situation between Rafa Benitez & Ronaldo explains that. 



Managers who’ve been in the game for a while have had to adjust to the demands of the modern footballer. Not just down to players needing a different approach to training or the game being faster but also their mindsets. Back in the day, professional footballers were seen solely as employees that listened, obeyed and played for the club. As more money came into the Premier League players became assets, regardless of who they played for. They became their own products within the product.





So, knowing their worth to a club it was only natural they started to value their worth as people. You see, the modern player has a mind, an ego and personality. As in everyday life, some can be bigger than others. But in football, if you come big, you got to deliver BIG. Back your stuff up!

One player who has consistently backed things up is Cristiano Ronaldo. Season after season, challenge after challenge he steps up to be counted. For some, he can be seen as arrogant, self assured or even cocky. For those who play or appreciate what it takes to perform elite in the elite will have professional respect, beyond what they think of the person.

Players generally know what they are good at & what they need to work on. For a player to improve they have to be honest with themselves
Dean Gorré: football4football Head of development


With players feeling they have a valued opinion, which they should when it comes to what they do on the pitch, it wasn’t going to be a pleasant situation for Rafa Benitez when it was alleged he asked his backroom staff to approach Balon d’Or Cristiano Ronaldo.

Spanish paper El Pais reported:

Close to when the pair first met last summer, after Benitez was appointed Manager at Madrid he sent one of his coaches to Ronaldo with a USB pen drive that included videos and images that he would be able to study to improve.

Ronaldo declined the pen drive and sent a message in reply, that supposedly said:

'Tell Benitez that I'll send him a USB drive with all my goals on it for him to study'

Now for a manager this could be taken one or two ways:

  1. Take it as a personal challenge to his authority. (Battle the ego)
  2. Use it as reference to challenge the player to achieve. (Challenge the ego)


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Prepare to fail if you make the mistake of relying on the coaching manual for your role in football. Guardiola, Wenger & Klopp have the badges but also these key ingredients you won’t find in the textbooks.




Zidane proved with winning the Champions League how quickly the Madrid players respect & trusted him

The managers who’ve done well with big personalities let them have their say on performance but they have to make sure it has a positive effect on the team.

Players start off on their football journey with potential but when that potential starts producing results, it’s natural for ego to kick in. This IS football!

This ego can be managed to bring success if it keeps confirming itself with success.




A young Ronaldo of course had a great mentor in Sir Alex Ferguson to develop a winning mentality. He also could count on a coach with the ability to push him on the training ground. Rene Meulensteen was very aware of what the young Portuguese had in his locker and found the right way to get it out.



That combination of mental and technical identified, applied and managed what was needed for both player and ultimately the team. This was done over many years of understanding the modern football landscape isn’t a one size fits all. Benitez did something that he’d probably always done elsewhere and won but every club is different and so is every player! 

SEE THIS: After this Ronaldo was a better goalscorer - Meulensteen

After this Ronaldo was a better goalscorer - Meulensteen

Balon d'Or winners like Cristiano Ronaldo are the best for a reason. Talent is backed up by an almost obsessive work ethic. One thing that is key for self improvement is honesty and willingness to take positive instruction. Coach advice must be relevant, applicable and beneficial even if it highlights flaws. Rene Meulensteen was tasked with taking a good player, to a great player. He did it with record breaking effect.


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