Rafa Benitez rivals: Facts, factos, stats, and quotes

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 23.3.2023.

A top manager, a world-class one, isn't defined just by his trophy haul, by the transfer profits of his tenure, or by the players he improves. Direct managerial duels write a lot of their stories and Rafa Benitez's rivals in the sport were some of the best the world has ever seen. The Spanish manager was in the Premier League during its arguably biggest boom when looking at new audience captured.

With Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, and his Liverpool all in the running for the primary spot in the EPL. But Rafa's career has spanned countries and even continents, and while he wasn't the most combative manager behind the perforated line in the dugout, or behind the microphone, he made some all-time rivalries.

Outsmarting each other in the tactics room, behind the fourth official's back, or in the press conferences, managerial duels make the game all that richer.

Rafa Benitez - Arsene Wenger head to head

Benitez vs Wegner

Starting with one of the calmer rivalries Rafa Benitez had, as this one was mostly reserved for on-the-pitch matters. But there have been more of them with Arsene Wenger than with any other manager. The Spaniard and the Frenchman had 24 duels, with Rafa getting eight wins, drawing six times, and losing 10 times to the Professor. With Wenger of course leading Arsenal and Rafa Liverpool, Newcastle, Chelsea but also Napoli.

Some spats may have happened, but nothing on the level we're about to see. After all, Arsene Wenger defender Rafa Benitez when the Spaniard was at Real Madrid.

"Rafael Benitez is an outstanding manager," said Wenger. "I would like to take this moment to completely back him. The club can not seriously be looking to sack the coach after 12 games in charge. I hope he gets the support of the president"

Rafa Benitez - Jose Mourinho head to head

Benitez vs Mourinho

Continuing with the fieriest opponent for possibly all managers, Rafael is no exception. The Special One and the man who was belittled by opposing fans calling him a fat Spanish Waiter met 19 times! The Portuguese manager won nine times against Rafa, lost six, and they drew four times.

Mostly with Liverpool and Chelsea battling it out, yet the two met in the more recent seasons when Mourinho was at Old Trafford and Rafa Benitez at St. James' Park.

There was no love lost between Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez, as their eras at CFC and LFC were fiery and full of refereeing controversies in cup competitions. It spilt over to the families as well, with Rafa's wife getting involved. After Rafa took over Inter, she commented that it was the third time that her husband had to clean up the mess Jose Mourinho made as the manager.

While the Portuguese didn't hold back and noted that both Real Madrid and Chelsea had other managers in between their reigns. Attacking Rafa's on a more school ground level.

"The only team that Benitez took after me was Inter and he destroyed what was the best team in Europe in just 6 months! Benitez's wife should be more concerned about her husband's diet than me," said Mourinho.

Rafa's players were familiar with the disdain he and Mourinho have for each other, and Peter Crouch, ever the joker, bought Benitez Jose's book for secret Santa at Anfield. The title was "How to Win the League..." ouch. Yet, ever the competitor, Rafa didn't get the joke and noted he will look into it.

Rafa Benitez - Sir Alex Ferguson head to head

Benitez vs Sir Alex Ferguson

When we talk about Rafa Benitez's facts, we are not talking about how tall he is, how old is Rafa, or where is he born. No, we're strictly talking about the facts speech. That is, when Sir Alex Ferguson rattled Rafa Benitez by complaining about fixtures, issuing a long rant from the Spaniard in which he stated multiple times he wasn't speaking about his opinion. Rather about facts, or factos, as his Spanish accent made it sound.

Although the rant backfired and LFC drew three next games, resulting in Manchester United winning the 2008/2009 league. SAF also had Benitez beat in mutual duels, with eight wins for the Scottish manager, six for the Spaniard, and two draws. Three matches came when Benitez was at the helm of Chelsea and then the Spaniard was undefeated against the Old Trafford legend, with two wins and one draw.

Rafa Benitez - Sam Allardyce head to head

Benitez vs Sam Allardyce

Not the biggest name in management, yet Rafa Benitez and Sam Allardyce overlapped a lot in the Premier League, meeting 15 times. Rafa managed to get the better of the Brith, with seven wins, three draws, and five defeats. Yet it's Alllardyce's statements that made him one of the more memorable Rafa Benitez rivals.

After the magical night in Istanbul, Allardyce wasn't enjoying the praise Rafa was getting, stating he wasn't the reason why the side won eventually. Much later, in his autobiography, he called the Spaniard arrogant, issuing an era of believed superiority, yet often humbled by his mid-table Bolton side.

Rafa Benitez rivals among players

But Rafa Benitez didn't have rivals or enemies just between the ranks of his fellow managers. While he was usually praised by the players he instructed, sometimes, when you have a career entering its fourth decade, you'll have unsatisfied customers.

None bigger in name than the longtime Chelsea captain John Terry who was quite open about the things that didn't sit right with him. Benitez apparently talked about his Liverpool times too much during his short stint at Stamford Bridge, even referring to the Reds with "we."

JT spoke out directly against Benitez in the dressing room, saying that the training wasn't intense enough. The icing on the cake was the season after Rafa left, Terry posted an image with the Premier League trophy he just won, saying that he played every minute and triumphed after Rafa told the club he isn't fit to play two games a week and has to leave.

In his more recent stint, Rafa Benitez had a falling out with the Everton star player Lucas Digne, and the Frenchman was hence sold in the winter transfer market. The left-back explained he was exiled by Rafa as he raised his concerns that the team isn't playing as attacking as it could, with possession football. It was the Everton board that made the fallout all the worse as they sold Digne to league competitors Aston Villa and then sacked Rafa Benitez three days later.


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