AS published an interview with Rafa Benítez in which the Napoli manager discusses the club, Italian football in general and the possibility of eventually taking on the job of coaching Spain -- all while doing his best to avoid any and all discussion of Real Madrid. If you're interested, the full English translation is available on the AS website.
While most Napoli supporters could probably care less about Rafa's opinion on Atlético Madrid’s start to the season, it's always interesting to hear the coach's thoughts on tactics and style. AS being a Spanish publication, it was clear the interviewer wanted to make connections to the Spanish sides, leading Rafa to talk about the revolution at Barcelona.
But it's also clear that Benítez won't buy into the possession game, which we already know. He wants both possession and effectiveness, and points to the Sassuolo match, in which Napoli had 70 percent possession yet ended up with a draw. What's more important than possession, Rafa makes clear, is being able to exploit space. And if you watched that draw, you are well aware of the fact that those Napoli players were unable to make anything of the small about of space conceded to them after the neroverdi scored their equalizer.
What's also important to realize is that Benítez seems content at Napoli, likely much more content than he ever was at Inter Milan. He discusses that brief stint, making it clear that the problem wasn't following the highly successful José Mourinho, but rather the promises that Inter failed to keep. Players promised failed to arrive, the players were too old, the squad was set in their ways. Problems Inter have failed to rectify even after Rafa's firing, and are still dealing with today, despite their apparent belief that Walter Mazzarri would return the club to their glory days.
When Rafa discusses his coaching philosophy, he's careful to mention there's two way of doing things: make the players adapt to a style, or buy players that fit your style. It's obvious that at Napoli, Benítez is benefiting from the latter. The sale of Edinson Cavani meant plenty of resources available to bring in José Callejón, Gonzalo Higuaín, Raúl Albiol and Pepe Reina, all players suited to Rafa. As such, he's able to get much more out of the squad than he was with the Inter players, or with the Chelsea team last season.
Is Rafa perfect? By no means. But this interview gives an interesting insight to his philosophies and to the way he's working with SSC Napoli. Getting a sense of how things are progressing makes it easier to have faith in this side, to realize that this likely isn't a one season project. If all the pieces don't fit together this year, more kinks will be ironed out next year.
That's something to think about as we all sit panicking about next week's match against AS Roma.