Benitez managed Liverpool between 2004-2010 and went agonisingly close to winning the Premier League title in 2009, but was pipped to the post by the Ronaldo-inspired Manchester United.
Ronaldo moved on to Real Madrid later that year and has been joined at the Bernabeu by Benitez, who replaced Carlo Ancelotti earlier this summer.
As well as admitting that Ronaldo used to be a constant thorn in his side, the Spanish coach also revealed that he tried to sign the three-time Ballon d’Or winner before he joined Manchester United in the summer of 2003.
Benitez and his scouts at Valencia noticed Ronaldo’s talent and attempted to do a deal for the teenager - but Manchester United ultimately won the race for his signature and the rest is history.
“We tried to sign him (Ronaldo) when I was at Valencia,” Benitez was quoted as saying by Spanish newspaper AS, according to Sky Sports. “We liked him but we could not do it.
"He was always a problem for me when he was at United. Now he is more complete and it is seen in his progression. He is one of the best in the world.”
Relationship between Ronaldo and Benitez
That Benitez only said “one of the best” and not ‘the best in the world’ might irritate Ronaldo, who is currently getting to grips with the former Liverpool manager’s training methods.
The Portugal captain made no secret of the fact he wanted Ancelotti to stay at the Bernabeu and might have been a bit perturbed when Florentino Perez, Real Madrid’s president, replaced the Italian with Benitez.
Benitez is keen to ensure he keeps Ronaldo happy and has accepted the forward’s decision not to switch his place on the left wing for a role upfront, despite his desire to change his star player’s position.
Benitez has been trying out Gareth Bale as a striker in training over recent days and the Wales international could be deployed upfront against AS Roma on Saturday.
Benitez keen to keep Ronaldo happy
Real Madrid are currently in Melbourne for the International Champions Cup and footage emerged on Thursday showing Ronaldo looking slightly unimpressed after being touched by Benitez in training - it’s fair to assume it might take a bit of time for the new manager to earn the trust of his best player.
Benitez knows it’s imperative to get Ronaldo onside to ensure he scores another 50+ goals for Real Madrid next season - so he will allow the club’s number seven to call the shots, within reason, to avoid causing any potential rifts.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo be as effective under Rafael Benitez? Will the two men fall out this season? Have your say by leaving a comment in the box below!