Rafa Benitez: We now know English players dive too but the embarrassment produced when caught out by television will cause it to die out
Don't forget that players are people, too. They don't like TV to show them cheating
Friday 15 November 2013
There is never a week without a controversy in the Premier League, is there? I do not see as many of your games as I would like because there is a very big job to do for me here in Napoli, but it was easy to notice that the diving story became something everybody was talking about a lot, after Ashley Young won a penalty for Manchester United in San Sebastian against Real Sociedad.
One incident can mean a lot of talking! The analysis is always very detailed in England. I remember when I was at Liverpool and our player David Ngog won a penalty at Anfield to make a draw against Birmingham City. It is always important to be honest about these things because people see the reality in front of them. I think I said that night – it was four years ago – that it was a wrong decision to give us the penalty. My approach with a situation like this is not always to talk to the player. Just one time and it is normal; no need to make a big point perhaps. But more than once – yes, have a word and make it clear how it can reflect on the reputation of him and, more importantly, the club.
I can see that everyone is saying it must be stopped and I think that is a positive thing, but before everyone starts thinking about a lot of new solutions – like penalising players with video evidence – we must remember one of the big things that has changed since I started managing. The cameras. They are everywhere now. Every angle and tackle and free-kick is replayed and replayed – and it means that the player who dives cannot hide. He will be embarrassed because the dive is played on TV, again and again and again.
Don't forget that players are people, too. They don't like the television to show them cheating in clips which go up maybe 10 times a day. So I think that will be the solution to any problem with diving.
We must still say that the debate is a positive thing, though. Diving is a bad way to win an advantage which no one likes. I'm not totally convinced that there is more diving than in the past but we are seeing a culture in England which hates diving. It has become a campaign, which is good.
But my last word is that the rules apply to everyone. People tend to complain more about the foreign players diving and say that they do it more. But I don't see it that way. The English players do it, too, and there is nothing worse for a manager than feeling that some players and some teams are not getting the same treatment as all the rest. The number of referees' assistants these days means that the diving should be seen and dealt with on the spot. But if they miss it then the supporters, who are able to see things more times than anyone, will not. Human nature then takes over. Don't forget that players, just like everyone else, want to be respected and to be liked.
Italy are making progress – with a more mature Mario
It is a while since we talked about the Italian national team here and if you watch them play Germany at San Siro tonight – an excellent fixture for the football enthusiast – you may see how they have developed as a good side under Cesare Prandelli since we discussed them before the European Championship quarter-final against England in Kiev last year.
One of the reasons Italy are a very good team is because tactically they know how to adapt to a lot of different systems. Plenty of Cesare's team play in Serie A, where they are used to playing teams who have three, four or five at the back and who chase quickly. Perhaps you remember how we talked a few weeks ago about how the systems can change a lot during and between games and you need to have the technical and tactical component to cope. The Italy players have that and it is why I think they could do better in Brazil than some people expect.
Mario Balotelli may start the game for Cesare in Milan tonight – there is still a little bit of uncertainty about Giuseppe Rossi, who has been playing well for Fiorentina. If he does, you will see a player who has developed since he was at Manchester City, when everyone in England was either talking or writing about him! Off the pitch, you don't see as many stories in the press and that's not because no one wants to know in Italy. He is a bit more mature. On the pitch, he has improved because as a striker in Italy you have to think always about how to attack against, let us say, a line of three or a line of four. The time in Manchester will have helped, with the experience it gave him. He can make mistakes like anyone but he has learnt things.
Who else should we be looking at this weekend? We always think the African teams can do well at the World Cup and they really could be a threat this time. Look out for Ivory Coast playing Senegal on Saturday. Gervinho, who has to me looked a better player at Roma than he was at Arsenal, was important for them when they beat Senegal 3-1 in the first game and now they play again.
Vicente del Bosque's Spain team have not dropped at all from their usual level because of the style of football they are so familiar with now. I know they have two long trips to play Equatorial Guinea on Saturday and then South Africa, because I would prefer Pepe Reina and Raul Albiol were not travelling that distance. Some of the Spanish players have been telling me about playing Brazil in the Confederations Cup. They were talking about the big, big intensity of the team and the crowd in the Maracana. Everyone will be having dreams of doing great things next summer but Brazil are a big, big challenge. It won't be easy for anyone.
Managing a national side could be the biggest test of all
People say would you like to be an international manager, one day? And I reply, why not? Obviously, as a manager at the moment I like to be involved on a daily basis, with the training sessions and games, but in the future perhaps it will happen. It would also be interesting to be on the other side of the conversations about which players clubs have to lose to the international games. I have 16 of my Napoli players in internationals next week and that bit of it doesn't get any easier for me. A national role is a very good test, though. What qualities do you need? You obviously don't have very much time to train with the players and when they arrive with you they are used to playing in a different way. You have to be very careful with your team selection, approach and system. In some ways it seems like the biggest test of all. But for now, there is plenty to think about: Parma, Borussia Dortmund and Lazio before I write next. More on our progress next time.
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