Injury Gave Rafa A New Career

Rafa Benitez has revealed he wanted to be a football manager from the age of 13.

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The Newcastle United boss has one of the most unrivalled contact books in the game after managing Valencia, Napoli, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea and Inter Milan, but admits he can't relax until he's mastered his game plan for the next fixture.

Benitez suffered a knee injury as a teenager which dented his career and resulted in an illustrious coaching and management career, but Rafa says he always had an interest in being the gaffer.

He said: "When I was 13, I had my notes.

"When I was 16, in the summer I was a coach and player.

"When I was 18, I was at the university and I was a coach and player.

"We played the finals in Sevilla, and I remembered two or three of my friends they are coaches now but were players. They said we have to go to bed at 1 o’clock.

"We were quite professional but some others were up until 6 o’clock in the morning.

"When I was 11, we won the school competition in Madrid, and believe me, that is massive.

"There are many good teams.

"I was captain of the team. I was always in football.

"The best players from the school go to Real Madrid for a trial. I was taken on.

"I was then promoted to the Castilla Under-15 team, I was only 13.

"We played against Barcelona in the final of the youth cup and we won.

"After that I went to the university national team in 1979. We were in Mexico City when Pietro Mennea set a new world record for the 200m.

"But I injured my knee while we were there and I had problems for six months. Real Madrid sent me out on loan.

"I had problems every year in my knee and had to retire aged 26."

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A knee injury sustained playing for Spain's university teams in a tournament in Mexico halted his early career.

Back then Benitez was playing for Real Madrid's youth team - long before becoming their manager and working with club legends such as Raul, who he nurtured through the club's Academy.

He said: "When I was a player, I was thinking I could be a player.

"I didn’t go to Oviedo because I could go to Castilla and then go to the first team in the future.

"But I didn’t have the potential.

"I realised later on when I had my injury and I could see my level little by little, I cannot go to Real Madrid and I could stay in a normal team in the middle of the table."

He said: "After one year of medicine, I was at the university doing physical education.

"One year I was doing three things at the same time - I was in the Under-18s at Real Madrid doing medicine and having to travel every Monday, and every day I was at university to do physical education.

"We had some classes until 5, I was leaving at 4.45 running to go to the underground, running to go to the training ground.

"I was arriving with the warm-up done because I was running.

"That was for three, four months and it was very difficult because I did not have any free time.

"In the morning I was going to the university, then the rest of the days training, training, or travelling with the team."

Benitez also revealed that it was Vicente del Bosque who gave him his first big break in coaching.

He said: "When I was a coach, Del Bosque was in charge of the academy and they made me professional later on.

"I started coaching the under-16s at Real Madrid and we won the league.

"After that I went to the under-19s and we won the double.

"Then I was assistant to Del Bosque with the first team.

"Then I was the assistant of the reserve team at Real Madrid, I was the coach of the Under-19s, and Monday afternoon was the only time I had free and I was training all the reserves of all the teams.

"So all the players that were not involved at the weekend were together and I was coaching them.

"So for another three months, from Monday until Sunday, every single day I was coaching football."