Did Rafa Benitez try to change Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-kick routine? Ex-Real Madrid boss discusses ‘lies’ from Bernabeu spell

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Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid free-kick
Rafa Benitez has refuted any suggestion that he sought to teach Cristiano Ronaldo how to take free-kicks during his short-lived reign at Real Madrid.
  • Spaniard coached Los Blancos in 2015
  • Worked with a star-studded squad
  • Lasted just seven months at the helm

WHAT HAPPENED? The former Liverpool and Chelsea boss took charge at Santiago Bernabeu in 2015 and inherited a squad brimming with world-class talent. Benitez would last just seven months and 25 games with Real, with it quickly determined that he was not the right man to take the Liga giants forward. Criticism was never far away from Benitez during his time in the Spanish capital, but he has rubbished claims that he tried to change the iconic free-kick routine of five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo.

WHAT THEY SAID: Benitez has told Cadena Ser: “The only comment I made to Cristiano Ronaldo, as I knew him from Manchester United, is that we analyse how he was shooting free-kicks. We looked at the trajectory, see if we can make any adjustments, saw we couldn't and forgot about it. It's my only conversation with him. Everything else is a lie. When he takes free kicks, when I leave, his stats are worse. I was surprised that journalists I knew would say that without talking to me.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Benitez has also responded to accusations of favouring Welsh forward Gareth Bale over Ronaldo when piecing together plans for a star-studded attack. He added: “It's another lie. He [Bale] plays with Wales, he catches me next door when I'm in England, it's common sense. It's another idiocy that they said at the time. They sharpened nonsense like that.”

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Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid free-kick

Gareth Bale Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid

Rafa Benitez Real Madrid

WHAT NEXT? Benitez, who has enjoyed a distinguished coaching career despite enduring the odd failure along the way, has been out of work since parting company with Premier League side Everton in January 2022.