After every game, one journalist or the other asks Benitez about whether Ronaldo is the best player in the world.
If Rafa Benitez answers that question, another follow up question is if Ronaldo is the best player he has ever coached which Benitez tries to duck.
Recently after Ronaldo scored five goals against Espanyol, Benitez was asked again if Ronaldo was the best player in the world and Benitez to his credit answered in the affirmative.
But when Benitez was asked about if Ronaldo was the best player of all time, he answered that Ronaldo is one of the best players he has ever coached though not the best because there were better players than him.
Well, with that said, let’s have a look at who exactly has Benitez coached in his career so that we can better understand why would he not consider Ronaldo as the best player he has ever coached.
Who Is The Best Benitez Has Coached
At Inter Milan
- Samuel Eto’o: While a good striker, he never really pushed himself to the heights that he could have had he been blessed with the same level of mental attributes as he was with his physical attributes.
At his best, Samuel Eto’o was very fast and very strong. He formed one of the most feared striking partnerships with Ronaldinho and some time with Lionel Messi too.
But is he really that good of a player for Benitez to not name C.Ronaldo the best Benitez has ever coached? At Inter Milan Samuel Eto’o was a shadow of his former self but even when Eto’o was at his brutal best, he was nowhere near as good as Ronaldo, not in terms of goals scored or skill on the ball.
Eto’o could strike hard but when the going got tough, he could not get going.
- Coutinho: Coutinho is fast becoming one of the best players in Europe now.
He must have been around 18 or 19 at Inter Milan when Rafa Benitez coached him. Even if we assume that Coutinho had the same talent (i.e if we assume he hasn’t improved his technique one bit since coming to Liverpool)it would be safe to say that Coutinho just doesn’t have the spark that Ronaldo had at his age.
There is simply no comparison between what Ronaldo could and can do with the ball with what Coutinho has to offer.
Coutinho is quick but far too weak to withstand challenges and score goal against teams who wouldn’t mind taking him out for it.
- Cambiasso: Was a great central player. He could do everything on the pitch.
He was good defensively and could also contribute in attack. His touch was reasonable for his position and he could pass.
Played for Real Madrid as well for a short period but regardless, Cambiasso, even at his own position wasn’t amongst the all time greats.
To compare him to Ronaldo’s greatness as an attacking player would be foolish.
- Sneijder : On his day he could wreck teams on his own. He had it all when it came to playmaking skills.
He could shoot really hard and could curve the ball like hell. He had a good head, good passing ability and fantastic free kick skill. Sadly, Sneijder was never consistent enough to be even considered a great let alone as great as Ronaldo. Sneijder definitely isn’t the player Benitez is talking about when he says that he has coached some that were better or equal to Ronaldo on the pitch.
- Stankovic: Another, barely, great midfielder. He could shoot, defend, run and dribble.
Again, consistency was the main issue issue with him. He is probably known best for a wonder goal he scored against Schalke in the Champions League.
Don’t get me wrong, Stankovic has done some wondrous things with Inter Milan and he has scored goals most like to score in their dreams but that is not enough for someone to be ranked amongst the all time greats.
Stankovic comes nowhere near that. Stankovic was a great player but we are talking about the big leagues here. No place for Stankovic here.
- Zanetti: Certainly amongst the all time best right backs. He had speed, a good head, strength and Messi like dribbling ability.
He was a defender of course which puts him at an disadvantage. Zanetti probably comes the closest to Ronaldo if we think about what Benitez could be pointing towards when he said that he has coached some great players.
Ronaldo, I think, edges Zanetti as well because Zanetti never did things no one else did. Ronaldo is the player who is still doing things which no one has ever done. Not even Messi.
- Lucio: Definitely an accomplished center back. But was he great? Nope.
He had good speed and good touch on the ball but his defensive prowess (his main job on the field) was always questionable.
He was a good tackler on one hand but terribly at positioning himself on the pitch, similar to his countrymen Marcelo at Real Madrid.
- Samuel: Don’t know why I even bothered to include him but I didn’t want to leave anyone, with the slightest bit of chance of being Rafa’s mystery ‘as great as Ronaldo’ player. A solid defender.
Had good strength and tackling ability. He could also defend in the air pretty well which was something rare for a Real Madrid defender before he was sold off to Inter Milan.
He was inconsistent though (the one quality which puts Ronaldo ahead over everybody. Everybody including Messi) and didn’t have the best of minds for a central defender.
- Materazzi: Disgusting person, good football player. Best known for taking a headbutt from Real Madrid legend Zidane in World Cup 2010, he was tall and could tackle like hell.
Not even his good pal Mourinho would put Materazzi in the same category of great players as Ronaldo. Even for his own playing position.
- A.Cole: Solid left back. At his peak, was the best left back in the world along with Roberto Carlos of Real Madrid.
If it wasn’t for the magical Roberto Carlos there is very little doubt in my mind if Andy Cole would have been a Real Madrid player.
He was very good with Arsenal and for some time with Chelsea too. He wasn’t a great by any measure as he had disciplinary problems and wasn’t consistent enough.
- Lampard: Definitely a great. One of the all time great midfielders produced by England. He could do everything on the pitch.
Many considered him to be a Gerrard doppleganger. England was slightly unlucky to have him and Gerrard in the same generation as both could do the exact same extraordinary things on the field which made them incompatible with each other.
Lampard was a great but was he one of the all time great? Nope. He was one of those players who was a jack of all trades but master of none.
Had some glittering moments with Chelsea (Barcelona chip goal anyone?) but never got to be good enough to be ranked as the best midfielder in the world at any stage of his career.
He was close though. Going up against Ronaldo, ‘almost great’ just doesn’t cut it.
- Torres: One of the few complete strikers in the game after the Brazilian Ronaldo. Consistency was his main issue and so was his fitness.
Had a great spell with Liverpool but go injured and made an unsuccessful comeback with Chelsea before moving to his childhood club Atletico Madrid last season (scored goals against both Real Madrid and Barcelona). Certainly one of the top strikers of Europe in his prime.
Never a great though.
- Mata: Time is running out for this former Real Madrid youth academy player.
He did show some class last season with Manchester United but even if we assume he was like that with Benitez at Chelsea, it still wouldn’t be enough to be even considered a great. Let alone being great.
- Oscar: Now this guy showed great promise when he burst onto the scene with Chelsea.
Scored some screamers with Chelsea early one and after that faded away with each succeeding game. He is too young to be counted out from becoming a future great but at this moment in time, he is not the player Benitez would be talking about when answering Ronaldo’s greatness question.
- Hazard: The only player who, the English media, touted to be a serious challenger to Ronaldo and Messi has seen a drastic dip in form this season.
He had been performing at a very high level for the past two seasons and had he scored about three times more goals than his last seasons tally, he could have been considered in the same bracket as Messi and Ronaldo. Given his horrendous form this season, he certainly looks the player who has great potential but not great head. His star looks to be extinguishing fast.
Good player but certainly not in the same league as some of the other folks. Forget Ronaldo in Hazard’s case.
At Valencia And Liverpool
- Pablo Aimar: Had great potential but never realized it. Probably one of those unlucky chaps who never got the recognition or the opportunity to shine of the biggest stage. May be he didn’t dream big enough but he certainly had the ability to become a great player.
One of the classic playmakers of his generation. Except for shooting, Pablo Aimar could do everything on the pitch. No wonder, Lionel Messi once said that it was Pablo Aimar after which he modelled his game.
Well, Aimar never had the same speed or ball control but Messi certainly can be considered as good as Pablo Aimar. Times fifty.
- Mascherano: He is a Barcelona player now but was a born cheater from any perspective. Which I guess is a good thing in modern football.
He knows every trick in the book when it comes to getting other players off the field with either a red card or a serious injury.
Though, one can’t deny his talents as a defender. He is extremely sharp, powerful and a brutal tackler of the ball. His only downside is his head.
He cannot head the ball and cannot think on the field either.
- Maxi Rodriguez: Probably the most unlucky player of all times. Had great control of the ball. Great shooting technique and a good head.
He had a sharp passing sense and could help out in defense as well. Sadly, he was hugely inconsistent and faded away within a few years after moving to Liverpool under Benitez.
- Alonso: Definitely a great. Another player, I think, which forced Benitez to shy away from naming Ronaldo as the best ever he had ever coached.
Alonso played for Real Madrid as well after his transfer from Liverpool.
He had great ball control and was a free kick specialist. He now plays for Bayern Munich and no wonder Guardila wanted him at Bayern Munich having seen his influence on the field with Real Madrid.
Alonso, still, has a great first touch and can change the state of a game with a single pass from his magical right foot.
He organizational abilities on the field are exceptional. Though according to Guardiola, Alonso is the worst tackler the game has ever seen.
- Fowler: Another one of those, overhyped English media darling. Was a good forward. Sometimes could be very good.
Not a great in any sense of the word when it comes to football. Having retired from the game, he now owns 80 houses though.
- Gerrard: Another player who I think would rank high amongst Benitez’s list even though Gerrard mentioned him as a ugly person in his book.
Gerrard could do everything on the pitch and did everything well. Really well. He was just that type of a player who wanted to be involved in the game every minute.
He could tackle hard. Was great in the air and had one of the most feared shots in his bazooka of a right foot. Probably the hardest hitter of the ball in history. He could score goals from any range. Any range.
Once Gerrard remarked “don’t try to beat the keeper. Destroy the keeper”. As per his own admission, Ronaldo is from another world.
I tend to agree with him. It isn’t Gerrard’s fault really. Ronaldo is just miles ahead of everyone else apart from Messi (who sometimes can be miles ahead of Ronaldo).
Looking at the above list, I don’t know which player Benitez had in mind when he said he couldn’t rank Ronaldo as the best he has ever coached.
Zanetti is probably the only one that comes close to Ronaldo in terms of influence on the pitch but apart from that, I think Benitez just doesn’t like Ronaldo very much.
I would like to see Benitez talk about Ronaldo when Ronaldo isn’t scoring five goals (and then three goals the match after) in Real Madrid games.
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