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Thursday 18 January 2018

Six things Real Madrid manager-elect Rafa Benitez must sort at the Bernabeu

Current Napoli coach Rafael Benitez
Current Napoli coach Rafael Benitez

Charlie Eccleshare

Reining in Ronaldo, getting the best out of Bale...the Real manager-elect has many pressing issues to sort out.

1)  Get Cristiano Ronaldo onside

The Portuguese superstar wields such authority in the Bernabeu dressing room, that it's imperative Benitez gets his backing early on.

To make matters a little more delicate, Ronaldo was said to be disappointed by Carlo Ancelotti's dismissal, and tweeted his admiration for the Italian on Sunday night.

 If Benitez is to stand any chance of overhauling Barcelona, he'll need Ronaldo to not only be at his scintillating best, but also not at his pouting, petulant worst.


2) Solve the Gareth Bale problem

Bale has looked devoid of confidence in recent weeks, and has failed tor recapture his excellent first season form.

It's easy to forget of course that there's still an £80m player there, and Benitez must do all he can to harness Bale's considerable talent.

Benitez should know exactly what Bale is capable of having seen first hand what he looks like in full throttle - the Spaniard was in charge of Inter when the then Spurs winger scored a sensational hat-trick at the San Siro.

Gareth Bale

3)  Prove he's got the pedigree to be at Real

Benitez hasn't won a League title since 2004, and his last Champions League success was in 2005.

Given Ancelotti was sacked only a year after winning the Champions League, there may be some in Madrid who are a little sceptical at Benitez's appointment.

The new manager needs to use the club's absurd short-termism to his advantage - if he is able to pick up results quickly, then no-one will care a jot what he's done in the previous 10 years.

If Real start the season badly however, questions will be asked very quickly about whether Benitez is the right man for the job.


4)  Ensure the right signings are made

It's unlikely that, even as manager, Benitez will get much of a say in signings, but he must do all he can to help strengthen some of the weaker areas of his squad.

Real's squad is already formidable, so it's more a question of tweaking rather than any sort of overhaul.

The main issue is how reliant the team are on Luka Modric in the deep-lying playmaker role. Toni Kroos is an automatic starter alongside Modric, but when the Croatian is missing, the side lack balance and cohesion. With Sami Khedira set to leave, and Asier Illarramendi still to convince, Real are in need of a central midfielder in the mould of the departed Xabi Alonso. No team with Real's resources should be playing Sergio Ramos in the engine room in a Champions League semi-final.

Reinforcements in central defence to provide competition to Pepe, Ramos and Raphael Varane would also be welcome.

Real Madrid star Sami Khedira

5)  Find a way of stopping Barcelona

Keeping out Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar is easier said than done, but Benitez comes into his own when tasked with setting up teams that are difficult to break down.

Such is the uncompetitive nature of La Liga that often the title is decided by the matches between the two heavyweights, and if Real can achieve a winning record against Barca, they'll have a decent chance of wrestling back the Spanish championship.

Bayern Munich v FC Barcelona - Neymar celebrates with Luis Suarez after scoring the first goal for Barcelona UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg (Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach)

6)  Don't fall victim to mind games

Admittedly, I'm almost entirely writing this just so I can post the video of the infamous 'facts' rant, but Benitez would be well advised to concentrate on his team rather than on any half-baked conspiracy theories he might come up with.

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