Now that the world’s best football coaches or managers have agreed to converge in the English Premier League (EPL) to trade wits, tactics and strategies against each other, one would expect the role-call to include all top coaches who are still active in the game.
Unfortunately, everyone except for Rafael Benitez is present.
Where the corner-kick is he?
Rafael Benitez, better known as “Rafa” or “Rafa the Gaffer” or whom I prefer to refer to as the greatest soccer coaching fluke ever, is currently Missing In Relevant Action (M.I.R.A.).
The English Premier League a.k.a. EPL is currently brimming with the best coaches in the world except for Mauricio Pochettino who left the EPL recently to take up the exalted post at PSG, Zinedine ‘Zizou’ Zidane who is still performing wonders at the Bernabeau by keeping Messi’s Barcelona in check since Ronaldo left and of course Diego Simeone who continues to be a crazy thorn to all La Liga and non-La-Liga teams.
Of course, we have other world-class coaches in other leagues plying their trade and such great names include:
- Ronald Koeman at FC Barcelona
- Claudio Ranieri @ U.C. Sampdoria
- Antonio Conte @ Inter Milan FC
- Hansi Flick @ Bayern Munich
Talking local, the EPL currently boasts of all the largest gathering of world-class coaches ever seen in soccer league since the late 90s and early 2000s when the Serie A had the best coaches present then.
Today, if you want to claim soccer coaching bragging rights and you are not currently managing Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich Juventus or PSG and you are neither in the EPL as a Team Manager nor even as a Team Assistant Coach, please just take a melodious hike and smoke your shisha in isolation.
The EPL is currently the undisputed biggest soccer league in the world based on its transactional value, its competitive nature and the also based pedigree of coaches that are selected to manage the 20 teams that trade tackle in this entertaining football league every year.
The biggest managers currently making the EPL more fun for all soccer fans and sports betting disciples around the globe can be categorized into three different groups or levels based on their profile and stats. We will proceed with that roll call of these groups from top to bottom (Group A to Group C) with no malice meant in the order of appearance of these great managers’ names.
- Carlo Ancelotti @ Everton FC
- Jose Mourinho @ Tottenham Hotspur FC
- Pep Guardiola @ Manchester City FC
- Jurgen Klopp @ Liverpool FC
- Sam Allardyce @ West Bromwich Albion FC
- Frank Lampard @ Chelsea FC
- Nuno Espírito Santo @ Wolverhampton Wanderers FC
- David Moyes @ West Ham FC
- Mikel Arteta @ Arsenal FC
- Ole Gunnar Solskjær @ Manchester United FC
- Brendan Rodgers @ Leicester City FC
- Marcelo Bielsa @ Leeds United FC
- Mark Hughes @ Southampton FC
- Roy Hodgson @ Crystal Palace FC
- Steve Bruce @ Newcastle United FC
- Sean Dyche @ Burnley FC
- And et al
No disrespect to any names that were erroneously omitted from the quick shortlist presented above.
One sour thumb that stands out is that Rafael Benitez’s name did not pop up on any of those lists even if he was in a relegation-bound team in the Austrian Soccer League.
I guess it easy to presume he must have taken a National Team Coach position since we left Newcastle FC in 2019 when his contract expired and no renewal was offered. However, that is not his case.
Below is a list of top soccer managers who have navigated their careers to the manage national soccer teams of different nations. No malice meant for great names omitted (if any).
- Frank de Boer @ Netherlands
- Luis Enrique @ Spain
- Marco Rossi @ Hungary
- Roberto Mancini @ Italy
- Gareth Southgate @ England
- Roberto Martinez @ Belgium
- Andriy Shevchenko@ Ukraine
- Janne Andersson @ Sweden
- Didier Deschamps @ France
- Joachim Low @ Germany
- Zlatko Dalić @ Croatia
Unfortunately, Sir Rafa Benitez did not make this honorable list. So where can he be?
Certainly, there is no way one would win 1 FIFA World Club Cup Title, 1 UEFA Super Cup title, 1 UEFA Champions League title, 2 UEFA Europa League titles, 2 La Liga titles, 1 English FA Cup title, 1 Copa Italia title and with such a talent will not be basking at the top with other great coaching talents that happen to be his colleagues in their prime now.
The last time we checked, the following managers were retired from active football management and Rafa’s name did not pop up on either list;
- Retired top managers
- Fabio Capello
- Sir Alex Ferguson
- Louis Van Gaal
- Sven-Göran Eriksson
- Prof. Arsene Wenger
- Frank Rijkaard
- Marcello Lippi
- Vicente del Bosque
So can one safely guess that “Rafa the Gaffer” is currently on a sabbatical leave from the exciting game of football like all great soccer managers have done. Mourinho, Guardiola, Ancelotti, Klinsman, Ranieri, Conte, Zidane e.t.c. have done at one time of their career as an opportunity to soak in other pleasures of life outside the excitements of the round leather game?
- Top football managers on Sabbatical breaks
- Massimiliano Allegri
- Maurizio Sarri
- Jurgen Klinsman
- Luciano Spalletti
- Patrick Kluivert
- Roberto Di Matteo
- Matin Jol
- Leonardo Araújo
Unfortunately, again, we are wrong. Where the free-kick can he be hiding then?
For someone who has picked fights with most of his great colleagues because he feels he did not get the required respect from them, one would expect him to still be in their faces and poking them with his stinging remarks. We searched other top level clubs and could not find Rafael Benitez, instead found great colleagues who were doing good for themselves at different clubs;
- Top managers at other clubs
- Andre Villa-Boas @ Marseille FC
- Unai Emery @ Villareal CF
- Lauren Blanc @ Al-Rayyan Sports Club
- Erik Ten Hag @ Ajax FC
- Gennaro Gattuso @ S.S.C. Napoli
- Andre Pirlo @ Juventus FC
- Manuel Pellegrini @ Real Betis
- Fabio Cannavaro @ Guangzhou Evergrande FC
- Luiz Felipe Scolari @ Cruzeiro Esporte Clube
- Stefano Pioli @ AC Milan
- Rudi Garcia @ Olympique Lyonnais FC
- Gian Piero Gasperini @ Atalanta
We searched the entire continent of Europe, checked the MLS plus South America, did a quick search in the Middle East and even checked Africa and Australia for the gaffer in case he got a mercenary job in those continents or was just cooling off but alas, he was nowhere to be found. As a football manager, you would expect that he would be found in one of those continents plying his trade.
Rafael Benitez is known to be a man who loves challenges as it is very evident in the nature of contracts he has been handed over the years as a top manager, the teams he has managed and the diverse nature of titles he has won, but where else could one find soccer adventure on this planet earth If not the locations that we combed thoroughly above?
With the aid of strong GPS technologies and 5G Wifi signals, we were finally able to track Rafa-the-Gaffer to Asia where he currently manages Dalian Professional, a relegation-bound Chinese Super League (CSL) team.
Dalian Professional (DP) currently sits at the lowest levels of the CSL table.
What could Rafa the Gaffer be doing in the CSL and even if he was there as a consultant, would you expect him to be at the bottom of the table where it is expected that the managers at those clubs do not compare to his level of technical or tactical football management abilities?
How did Rafa sink this low?
After Rafa was sacked from Real Madrid (no surprise), Newcastle offered him a life-line to restart his career and he took it hoping that the miracles we would perform there would endear him to the footballing world and make him attractive to top clubs who were in search of tested and trusted managers. Alas, he was red-card wrong as he was let go at the expiration of his Newcastle contract and no top team came calling for his team management services.
And that’s how Rafael Benitez’s cookie crumbled, as he was viewed as an unattractive Play Station 3 (PS3) console then, while other managers (even the novices) were wanted by all top teams in Europe like every wants a Play Station 5 (PS5) console now.
We hope Rafael Benitez wakes up from his deep slumber in China ASAP and return to Europe ASAP where his impact is required.
The current dearth of experienced or tested managers in Europe now means Rafael Benitez will be opportuned to kickstart his career again at his pace just like the great Mourinho has decided to do at White Hart Lane or as Ancelotti with Everton.
Will Rafael Benitez return to Europe anytime soon to manage a top football club?
Only time will tell.
A 2019 DailyMail report claims Rafael Benitez was the third highest paid coach in the world and he took the Chinese largesse offer because he received no single employment offer from Europe but received several offers from China, Saudi Arabi, UAE and Turkey for his management services. He chose China for reasons best known to him.
Maybe that explains why he is nowhere to found now!