After Real Madrid lost heavily in El Clasico and after Cristiano Ronaldo reportedly delivered an ultimatum, many assumed that team president Florentino Perez would fire Rafa Benitez just three months into his tenure as the club's manager. After a Monday press conference, though, it turns out that's not so much the case: Rafa will stay at Real Madrid.
[Rafa Benitez] has all our support and confidence.
Rafa has only just started his job here. Let him keep working and he will achieve his objectives.
Well, Rafa Benitez will stay at Real Madrid for now, at least.
I cannot say what will happen in the future. No-one can say what will happen in six months.
This has all the makings of the "dreaded vote of confidence," where a team executive says that a coach or manager has his full support, then dumps him at the next big bump in the road. Given how big a blow losing 4-0 at home to Barcelona represents, though, it's probably safe to say that Rafa is on a very, very thin leash.
It was surprising to many when Benitez was hired in the first place, especially coming off a disappointing season at Napoli. Real Madrid have, overall, been good this season, but they're now six points behind Barcelona in La Liga and have a few real clunker performances behind them this season. There's a lot of talk of dressing room strife -- though Perez denied that Ronaldo's ultimatum happened -- and watching how the players are operating on the pitch, it looks like they're either not comfortable with or not buying into Rafa's tactics.
For now, though, he's going to be staying put -- but the pressure is on full blast now. Rafa needs to get Real Madrid's form turned around into the dominance they are capable of and he needs to do it fast, or that "support and confidence" will evaporate in a hurry, and so will his job.