I needed to join a team who would have faith in me and let me get to work.
In Almendralejo (Badajoz), Extremadura FC gave me that opportunity and we were promoted to ‘La Liga’. It was another step forward achieved by all those who had worked so hard.
My next challenge was another second division team who had their eye on promotion, Tenerife. Despite this season being the hardest ever recorded in second division, we were promoted to ‘La Liga’ in an epic final game in Leganés.
The ‘young and inexperienced’ coach now had top level experience and Valencia gave me my first ‘big contract’. After 31 years without winning, we took the League title back to the city of Turia River. Although the second season saw no trophies, we were rewarded with a third season full of them: another League Title and the UEFA Cup.
In those days, the Spanish league was at its peak. Those were the days of Real Madrid’s ‘Galácticos’, a great Barcelona, the mythical ‘SuperDepor’, a strong Atlético Madrid and a powerful Sevilla. All were prestigious rivals who did not make the game easy for us. But, once again, our hard work gave us the expected results.
After the last season in Valencia, I decided to take on numerous new challenges, including the challenge of coaching abroad. Coaching in the Premier League had always been a dream for me, so when an opportunity arose to sign up at Liverpool FC, I jumped at the chance.
When I signed my contract with Liverpool in June 2004, I was proud to become the first Spanish coach in the prestigious British competition.
This was the start of what many call my ‘love affair with Liverpool’.
During my time at Anfield, we won four important titles including that magic night in Istanbul, which saw the Champions League trophy come to Merseyside. We also reached three finals and won second place in the race for the Premier League with 86 points, a historical record for the club.
After 6 glorious seasons, I had to leave Liverpool for various reasons. Life had to go on. So, in June 2010 I packed my bags and left for Italy to become coach of Inter Milan.
Within five intense months we won the Italian Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. Despite this success, it was not enough for the executive team who had not backed me from the beginning. We reached an agreement to terminate my contract early and for me to part ways with Inter Milan.
After my experiences with Milan, I returned home to Merseyside. I firmly believe that those who are privileged enough to do jobs they love can help those who are less fortunate than themselves; which is why I was very proud to help my wife launch ‘The Montse Benítez Charitable Foundation’. The foundation was created to help raise funds to share to different charities in Merseyside and the Wirral.
In September 2011, I was very proud to be awarded the Golden Club Crest by Valencia; which was presented to me by the President, Manuel Llorente, before the match against Barcelona at the Mestalla.
Always looking for ways to integrate technology into the sport I developed Globall Coach, it is dedicated to the development of football tactics and team management; Globall Coach was designed with professional coaches in mind and was released in February 2012.
My book, Champions League Dreams was released in September 2012, just before I returned to my football coaching career and joined Chelsea FC.
I joined Chelsea in November 2012 and worked hard with my team to instil the highest standards and challenge for honours. I am proud of the personal and professional achievement of managing the team to victory at the UEFA Europa League Final in Amsterdam on May 15th. I am also proud of successfully achieving our goal of securing a spot in the UEFA Champions League football group stages for Chelsea FC next year and for finishing in third place of the Premier League.
From 1st July 2013 till June 2015 ,I was in charge of SSC Napoli winning two more trophies to our list of successes. In my first season we beat Fiorentina (3-1) in the final of the Copa Italia at the Olympic stadium in Rome.
And last season we won the Italian Super Cup beating Juventus (5-6 on penalties after a 2 2 draw in Doha, Qatar).
Nearly two decades after my departure from Real Madrid as a player and coach, the club I called home for 17 years – I was appointed to be the first team coach of Real Madrid CF in June 2015. Seven months later, I was again forced to leave a club which was so important for me.
In March 2016, I started on a new challenging project in managing Newcastle United F.C. My return to the Premier League after three years of coaching abroad will be an important challenge but our goal now is to build the foundations that allow the return of Newcastle United FC to the higher echelons of the Premier League, a place well deserved for this historic English club.