Following his first win as Real Madrid manager, Rafa Benitez is pleased with the progress his team is showing and insists that everything is fine with Cristiano Ronaldo.
“[I am] pretty pleased to see the team playing well and winning the trophy,” Benitez said following his side’s 4-1 victory over Manchester City in Melbourne, which saw Real win the International Champions Cup Australia.
“When you are working so hard, when the players are training double training sessions – and doing so well in every training session – you can see the commitment. I think that it’s important to win and to play well.”
Cristiano Ronaldo was one player in particular who played well, scoring the second goal of the game and being named man of the match in front of the 99,382 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and despite media reports indicating the Portuguese star doesn’t have the best relationship with Benitez, the manager firmly stated that everything is fine between the two of them.
“I think that people were talking about something that happened in a training session,” said Benitez, “but you could see today he is happy, he is playing well and I am really pleased because he is scoring goals and winning man of the match.
“Everything is fine. In football you know you have to just concentrate on the future and the future is quite positive.”
Equally positive was the overall performance of the attacking unit, with Karim Benzema also finding the back of the net while Isco (two) and Gareth Bale (one) both finished with assists, and Benitez focused on the group as a whole when asked about Bale’s roaming role in the fluid offensive set up.
“Obviously if he’s playing in the middle it’s easier for him to be involved but the main thing is the team. The main thing is to see all the team playing well, and obviously if Cristiano and Gareth, Karim Benzema – all these players – Isco, if they play they find each other [and] the team will play much better and today that was the case.”
Despite the 4-1 scoreline against one of England’s biggest sides, there is still room for improvement Benitez said.
“We conceded a goal, so if we can improve that it would have been much better. We have seen things that we were training here: the team was playing with intensity, pressing sometimes really well and trying to be compact in defence,” said Benitez.
“The main thing will be to keep the balance and all the power that this team has in attack, we can continue in the same way and be stronger in defence that would be really pleasing.”
Transfer discussion often dominates this time of year – particularly for Real Madrid – and with English media linking Benzema with a move to Arsenal, Benitez dismissed the possibility of the Frenchman leaving the Bernabeu.
“I hope – I am sure – that he will stay with us.”
Also linked with a move away from the Spanish capital is new club captain Sergio Ramos, but the manager reinforced his stance that he would like the 128-capped international to stay.
“Sergio has known from day one that I want him to stay and I’m sure that he’ll stay with us.”
Ramos himself remained coy, stating that he will talk soon on his future: “Now, there is less time [until it is resolved].”
The final match of the ICC Australia marked the end of Real’s tour down under, and overall Benitez deemed it a success, while also noting the strides his team has made during pre-season.
“It has been a very good time here. The facilities were good, the people were very professional, very polite, so [we’re] really pleased with everything. Today we played really well and I’m really pleased with everything so I can say, for us, the idea was to train hard, have good facilities [and] I can say it was like this.
“I felt that every day our physical condition was a little bit better and our tactical understanding between players was a little bit better, so I think we will be ready and we can do well.”