Rafa Benitez: Only Cristiano Ronaldo is guaranteed a place in my Real Madrid team

Rafa Benitez says Ronaldo is the only player guaranteed a place in his Real Madrid team.

Despite having a star-studded squad, including the likes of Gareth Bale – who joined for £80 million – and captain Sergio Ramos, the 55-year-old says there is still only one spot that will automatically be filled.

“The only one guaranteed in the XI is Ronaldo, the others have to compete, “ said Benitez, who started the season playing the Portuguese on the left flank with Bale through the middle of his team.

The former Liverpool and Napoli manager was discussing first-team opportunities for Casemiro, who spent last season on loan at Porto. “Casemiro listens a lot, has great skill, but there’s a lot of competition,” Benitez told Onda Cero’s Al Primer Toque.

“One of the first things I did when I got to Madrid was ask about the possibility of bringing him here.

“Madrid is the highest level. I want Jese to do very well, to have quality, and at the same time there’s the luck and the difficult of playing for Madrid.

Keisuke Honda (L) of AC Milan fights for the ball with Carlos Casemiro of Real Madrid during their International Champions Cup soccer match in Shanghai, July 30, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song
Keisuke Honda (L) of AC Milan fights for the ball with Carlos Casemiro of Real Madrid during their International Champions Cup soccer match in Shanghai, July 30, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song – Reuters

“I look at the best XI, not whether or not they were home grown in Madrid. We have to have the best players, and then look at the passports. If we can develop them ourselves, even better.”

Benitez also discussed the quality of his goalkeeper Keylor Navas, following the departure of Iker Casillas over the summer, and the form of striker Karim Benzema. “I’m not surprised by Navas’ high level,” he added. “He’s made great saves and I already knew him from Albacete.

“He’s a very good professional. He uses his head. His wife is a very positive influence on him. I told him not to worry when his move to Manchester United was cut short.

“I have a good relationship with Iker Casillas, but we have Keylor and Kiko Casilla. My duty is to be happy and content with my team.

“We’ve recovered the best Benzema, whom many people were criticising. We’re taking it slowly because we know we have to take care of him.

“We know why we’ve been taking him off. We can’t control what happens with him when he’s in the hands of the national team coach.

Benitez concluded by explaining his relationship with a Barcelona player,Mascherano, a former Liverpool colleague who recently spoke warmly of his former boss.

Liverpool's manager Rafael Benitez consoles Javier Mascherano after the final whistle
Liverpool’s manager Rafael Benitez consoles Javier Mascherano after the final whistle – PA Photos

“I spoke to him recently and we both know we’re rivals, but that doesn’t affect the respect and affection we share,” Benitez noted.

“While at Liverpool I went to talk to him and convinced him by talking about football using stones from a vase and a table centrepiece. He wasn’t playing for West Ham reserves then, which is amazing.

“I was on the verge of signing him for Napoli and for Inter.”

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