Rafa Benitez says he is “not obsessed” with Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal record, and denies he favours certain members of his Real Madrid squad.
Benitez took over at the Bernabeu this summer following the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti, and has led Madrid to second in La Liga with 10 points from his first four games in charge.
Question marks were raised over Ronaldo’s performances as he failed to score in the first two games of the season, but the 30-year-old then hit five in a 6-0 win at Espanyol on September 12 to lead the Spanish scoring charts.
Keylor Navas has impressed at the other end of the pitch having kept five clean sheets in all competition to break Miguel Angel’s club record from the 1975-76 campaign.
But while Benitez acknowledges the importance of individual such as Ronaldo – who hit a career-best 61 goals last season – and Navas in his squad, the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Napoli coach is focusing on results ahead of Madrid’s trip to Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.
“The players know that Cristiano scores 50 goals a season. He makes the difference,” he said at a pre-game news conference on Tuesday.
“There is one indisputable player, which is Cristiano. From there, we assess who is well and who is not. Cristiano manages his exertions well. As of today he is pretty good physically.
“What I want is to win. I am not obsessed with Cristiano scoring five goals or Navas not conceding. I have never thought about favouring anyone apart from the team.”
Benitez says that key to working at a club such as Madrid – with a Galacticos policy of making regular star signings – is the ability to converse regularly with his players.
“To manage a special group with such a high level is not easy, but I maintain individual conversations with them,” he said. “With Toni Kroos I must have had like 20 individual conversations. We are in agreement with everything.”
Of Jese Rodriguez – who has vowed to bide his time after reportedly becoming frustrated at a lack of game time at the Bernabeu – Benitez added: “There are players that are one step in front, and others that have done it better. Jese has talent and has to work.
“The youngsters have to push to approach the level of the best [players] in the world.”