Rafael Benitez Maudes, born on April 16, 1960 in Madrid in a middle-class family, is a Spanish footballer. He obtained a degree in Physical Education in 1982 from the Instituto Nacional de Educación Física (INEF), University of Politécnica de Madrid. His father, Francisco Benitez, was an hotelier, and his mother, Rosario Maudes, was a big Real Madrid football club fan. He has an elder brother and younger sister who studied veterinary science. Rafael Benitez is married to Maria de Montserrat, a doctorate in law and has two daughters, Claudia and Agata.
Rafael Benitez stepped into the international arena in 1979 in the World Student Games in Mexico for the Spain Universities XI. In the opening game against Cuba, he scored a penalty, and the team went on to win the match 4-0.
As a youth, Rafael Benitez played for various school teams, and Ricardo Gallego, a former Spanish veteran footballer, was his team mate. He joined the Real Madrid youth club at the age of twelve, and steadily moved up the ranks, playing as a midfielder for the reserve team of the Castilla CF, and scored 73 goals in the 247 matches. In 1981, Rafael Benitez joined the Parla, becoming instrumental in the promotion of the club to the Spanish Segunda B, where he made 28 goals in 124 matches. In 1985, he made a move to Linares, another club in the same division, and under the guidance of Enrique Mateos, he served both as a player as well as a coach, playing 34 games and striking 17 goals. A whole season of injury forced Rafael Benitez to retire from playing in 1986.
Rafael Benitez soon started his career in coaching the juniors of Real Madrid and steadily worked his way up to the Under-19. Under his guidance, the B- team achieved the seventh place in the Spanish Second Division in 1994, and he ended the season as an assistant to the first team coach. Rafael Benitez has also acted as the head coach for the Valladolid FC in 1995 and then Osasuna FC in 1997. As a coach for Extre Extremadura, he was instrumental in getting the club promoted from the Second Division by winning 23 out of 42 games. After a year-long break for studying the art of coaching, he took charge of Tenerife and successfully led them to promotion. In 2001, Rafael Benitez joined Valencia and the club marched to the Primera Liga title, the first in 31 years of the club’s history. During his presence as a coach, the club brought another League Championship in 2004 and the United European Football Association (UEFA) Cup. Year 2004 saw him move to Liverpool, and the club lifted the trophy at the Champions League after beating AC Milan in the finals. The next season saw them conquering the Football Association Cup and finishing at the runners-up position in the UEFA 2006-07 season. Rafael Benitez even drove the team to reach the final of the 2006-07 Champions League after beating Chelsea and Barcelona.
Rafael Benitez has been honored with the FA Premier League Manager of the Month award twice in November and December 2006 and the UEFA Champions League Manager of the Year for two consecutive seasons, 2003-04 and 2004-05.