Real Madrid kick off a new era under manager Rafael Benitez when the Spanish giants take on Italy’s AS Roma in the International Champions Cup at the Melbourne Criket Ground on Saturday.
Benitez, who replaced Carlo Ancelotti at the Santiago Bernabeu in June, said his focus is on strengthening the side’s defence ahead of the La Liga season.
Benitez’s side have so far made just one major summer signing — Brazilian right-back Danilo who arrived from FC Porto — but have been strongly linked with Manchester United’s Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea as a replacement for Iker Casillas who has left for Porto.
He also will be trying to retain Spanish international centre-back Sergio Ramos.
Benitez would not be drawn Friday on whether de Gea would be his new man in goal but suggested an incoming goalkeeper was imminent.
“(Keylor) Navas is our number one at the moment … he’s more experienced so he’s at the front right now,” Benitez told reporters.
“We’ve got two keepers that the press is talking about … Kiko Casilla and De Gea.
“De Gea is not our player at the moment and it is not our subject (to talk about)”.
Benitez said club president Florentino Perez’s wish for Ramos to remain in Madrid would prevail.
“I have spoken with him at length in the (northern) summer about his ideas and his future and I see Sergio as an integral part of our team,” he said.
“He’s a winner and that’s what we need in our team.”
Benitez is fully aware of the expectation that comes with coaching of the ten-time European champions, who finished runners-up in La Liga last season behind rivals Barcelona.
Real’s directors showed little sentiment by sacking former boss Ancelotti just a season after a drought-breaking European Champions League win.
To the club’s executives, a Club World Cup success, second place in La Liga and making the last four in Europe last season was a sackable offence.
But Benitez, 55, hopes his stint coaching the club where he played as a junior will bring success back to Real.
“I know the city, I know the fans, I know the club … this is an advantage,” he said.
“What I have to do (in Madrid) is more or less every day is the same (at other clubs), to train, to coach, to prepare.
“Hopefully it will be good, we have a good team, the players will do it for me, winning games, and I can just try to enjoy.”
Benitez was not pleased with the state of the MCG pitch ahead of the opening game in the three-team International Champions Cup, also featuring English giants Manchester City.
“I have to say, the pitch was not the best,” he said.
“We have to be aware of that, we have an important game, important players so hopefully they can do their best for the game.”
The MCG has been hit by a solid week of rain after 15 rounds of the Australian Football League season.