Rafael Benitez has risked upsetting Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo after refusing to confirm the three-time Ballon d’Or winner is the best player he has coached during his managerial career.
Benitez insists Ronaldo is currently the best player in the world, but stopped short of admitting the Portuguese forward is the best footballer he has managed - perhaps keen to avoid upsetting some of his former players.
“He is one of the best [I’ve ever coached], but I can’t say if he is the best because I have coached some very good players,” Benitez said in a press conference on Monday, according to Goal. “Right now, though, he is the best player in the world.”
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Benitez has coached some fantastic players during his managerial career, including the likes of Fernando Torres, Frank Lampard, Xabi Alonso, Juan Mata and Steven Gerrard.
Keen to avoid upsetting those stars - and many others - the Spanish coach played it safe by stating that Ronaldo is merely ‘one of the best players’ he’s ever coached.
Ronaldo is obviously the best player Benitez has managed
But it’s no secret that Ronaldo, who is determined to finish his career as the best player of all time, has a pretty big ego.
Benitez was forced to backtrack early in his Real Madrid tenure after refusing to name Ronaldo as the world’s best player, changing his tune within the space of a week, presumably after the PR department at the Bernabeu had a quiet word in his ear.
The Spanish coach knows he is still loved at Liverpool, where he spent six years as manager, and he will be acutely aware that going overboard with his Ronaldo praise will not sit too well with the red half of Merseyside given the player’s history with rivals Manchester United.
But in terms of pure talent and ability, Benitez would surely have to concede that Ronaldo sits top of the pile.
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