The Rafael Benitez Column: My team to watch this season are Manchester City, their Spanish signings are so exciting

Pellegrini has experience, he likes to improve players and he has good English, which is crucial

It's good to be back sharing ideas with you in The Independent, where I found many people wanted to read and talk about tactics and players when we were discussing the European Championship last year. A lot of people say that English football is only about the passion, not the small details of the game. That's not how I found it with the readers here.

I think you will know that I have started a new challenge, managing Napoli, a club with very great ambitions in Serie A. But the Premier League is always in my heart and we will focus a lot on that in the months ahead. The demands on me in a challenging league mean I will write every other week but I hope we can cover a lot of good ground, talking about English, Italian, Spanish football and more. Let me know your views. It will be good to answer questions from time to time, like we did after the Euros.

You will forgive me when I say it is a Spanish aspect that interests me most about this Premier League season. There has been such a lot of attention on Manchester United and Chelsea that no one seems to have been talking about the two Spanish signings at Manchester City – Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo – who, with a tough former adversary of mine, Manuel Pellegrini, make Manchester City a very interesting squad.

They are perhaps the squad that has been overlooked, which is not a thing we have been able to say much about Manchester City in recent years when everyone has been talking, talking, sometimes criticising. I don't think many people know the full story of Navas, who is 27 and has been in Spain for a long while, always at Sevilla. He has needed to be protected and has not always found it easy to be away from that special city. Everyone knew that he was settled there and didn't want to move away but bit by bit he has grown and learnt to be away from home, partly by being away with the Spanish side at international level.

Now he is ready and Manuel will be the one who benefits. Look out for a player who is pacey, very dangerous on the right and puts in good crosses – great mobility; a very dynamic player. Negredo is a different type of player: a great finisher, great left foot and good in the air. He will score goals.

So, although City slipped up in their game at Cardiff, this means nothing. Pellegrini has experience, likes to improve players and has good English, which, by the way, is crucial at the start for a manager going into the Premier League. When you have good players you don't need to talk too much but the English is important because when you try to express an emotion or explain an exercise you need the right words – and when you pronounce the words in the wrong way you lose something. Not a problem for Pellegrini.

We must also mention Roberto Soldado, who has signed for Tottenham from my old club Valencia: another finisher to watch. When you lose a really top-class player like Gareth Bale after big money has been offered, it is really difficult because you just can't replace him – you need more than one to come in. The people you bring in need time to settle down and you buy two or three players because you hope that if one of them doesn't settle down at least the others will.

At Napoli we have experienced the same problem as Tottenham, with Edinson Cavani – like Bale, another player whom a team was built around – going to Paris Saint-Germain, but we really think we have solved that problem by signing Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid. The essential aspect with him, like a lot of players, is that he needs to feel he is very important for the team. This is an essential psychological component for some players and at Real Madrid it was difficult for him to feel that way.

The essential thing when you sell a player in a way that brings a huge windfall, like Tottenham and Bale, is to use that money to buy the players that you actually need. The fans will ask for a big name to replace the one they are losing, but it is an easy trap to buy players you don't really need and who are not worth the money. Yes, it can feel like the money is burning a hole in your pocket. But people know you have the money and replacement players can suddenly carry a price which is not realistic.

So, as the new Premier League season starts, look at Manchester United and Chelsea – of course. And look at Southampton as the team who could be dark horses to push into the top 10, with Pablo Osvaldo as another great striker with great movement, who will fare very well if he can settle down.

But look very hard at City. Little by little the Spaniards, with their obvious technical component, have become more open-minded about how to improve in England. Pellegrini's side are about to learn more about that.

Good to have Pepe the great motivator

I was delighted to get Pepe Reina, whom I signed for Liverpool back in 2005, into Napoli on a year's loan from my old club and it is already more than the goalkeeping that he is delivering for me.

People don't realise what a great motivator Pepe is behind the scenes; encouraging others and pointing out how we can do things better in training. I saw that again in our session today, where he was already expressing himself in Italian. He is a great influence on team matters.

Here's our chance to be film stars

I learnt a long time ago that you can never be sure what football will throw your way. You may know that my chairman at Napoli, Aurelio de Laurentiis, is a film producer. He wants the players to appear in a Christmas comedy film. So, after training, we have been heading out to Castel Volturno, north-west of Naples, for filming sessions in the afternoons. I never knew I had so many film stars in my squad!

One of the scenes starts with the actors doing their job and there in the background are Pepe, my captain Paolo Cannavaro and Marek Hamsik. I don't think we'll be appearing for more than about five minutes in the film but it's fun and it's gone down well. You need the laughs.

The teams in Serie A are all very well organised with a big emphasis on tactics, and last weekend's opening 3-0 win over Bologna was only one step on a very long road.

As I write, I don't know whether I'll have to say anything in the film. The cameras roll in about half an hour! That's not really my strong point, despite the few times I went on stage in Liverpool, where the audiences were too kind! I'll let you know more next time!

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor