The Rafael Benitez Column: There's no need for pessimism – English kids are often better than foreign ones

I see technique, quality and talent. The challenge for England is to find a way to develop that

There has been a lot of talking and worrying about the England national team in the last week and everyone has a million different reasons why things don't look so promising. Some people are even worrying about the young players watching TV and playing computer games instead. Well, I can tell you that young people watch television in Spain and Germany, too!

Finding top young players in England is not as difficult as everyone seems to think. They are passionate, strong and committed in a way that young players in many other countries are not. I see talent, quality and technique. A lot of young English players are better than foreign players. The challenge for England – who have not been winning things for a long time – is to find a way to develop that talent. That is what people should be worrying about.

England is not the first country to worry about its young players getting first-team football. It was the same in Spain when I was coming through as a young player for Real Madrid. I was playing for the third team and there was a rule that you had to have a minimum of four under-20s in your squad and two starting the game who had to play for at least 20 minutes. A lot of the teams had their older star players warming up from the start and after precisely 20 minutes they would come on to replace the young ones. My point is that rules and new quotas won't solve the problem. We need to develop players who are good enough to play. Whoever those players might be – Raul, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney – they will always get their chance if they are good enough.

The FA are trying to change the system. They are doing good work, sending people around the world to learn new ideas. But one idea which helps the Spanish federation very much is the series of competitions it holds for regional youth teams – something we never see in England. When I was in the Real academy I would go up to play for the Madrid county against maybe Catalunia, Galicia or Andalucia and when the semi-finals and finals took place, the coach of the Spanish Under-16s team would be watching. The coaches of the regional teams would meet with the national coaches too – having forums, conversations, sharing ideas about the best way to play. I don't say this is the solution for England. I just say that this is one way, one idea.

The academy of Real had an incredible way of finding talent, too. The competitions we called the torneo social – "social tournament", you would say – allowed the club to watch maybe 2,000 players in one year. If you were good enough in those trial games you would be put into a team that was playing the next Saturday, each named after a Real player. Mine was called "Grosso" after Ramon Grosso, I remember. Real watched player after player after player. Nobody worried about foreign players coming in because everybody just wanted the best. The game now is global, so you can't say "no" to foreign players. You can't stop them. That's life now.

The foreign players don't have to be a problem if you are developing your players, as England can if they improve the coaching and develop a common methodology like Germany and Spain. It will take time. England don't have the same coaching culture so first it will be necessary to coach the coaches so that they can offer intelligent analysis and technical aspects to the players.

It is a mistake to think only about Barcelona when it comes to deciding what the common methodology should be. Under Johan Cruyff, Barcelona once played 3-4-3 in all their teams and then they developed to 4-3-3, but when Vincente del Bosque was technical director of the academy at Real he did not have only one system. As a coach at Real I was using zonal marking and pressing up the pitch but others were different. Our one common idea at Real was playing with the ball on the floor. We said: 'We play football because we are Real Madrid.'

By continuing the work they have started, England are as capable as any nation to develop a common mentality and culture, developing technical skills and creating a confidence in the philosophy among the players. I know the debate that the FA chairman has started included a target of winning the 2022 World Cup. But the problem with setting a goal is that you don't know what the other teams will be like in 2022. You can't control them. And I also think your target must be about more than winning the World Cup. Yes, if you have a good XI – three or four great players – you can win, maybe. But a lot of teams can win their league in one year because they have a good group of players and no injuries and then the next year they might finish 10th. You have to be consistent, getting closer and closer until you have a squad who can compete, year after year. It will take time but England can get there. I have seen enough of your country to say with confidence that there does not need to be so much pessimism.

Should we scrap the away goal rule?

There was an interesting few days for me at the Uefa headquarters in Nyon, since I last wrote, at the elite club coaches forum, where there were many ideas being talked about. There was statistical data to analyse what brings success in the Champions League, in which my Napoli team receive Borussia Dortmund next week. There has been a rise in goals scored from cutbacks from the goal line which shows the value of wide players. The percentage of teams who win ties after scoring first is very high, so teams are good in possession when they go ahead. And there has been a rise in goals scored in Europe. Maybe the defenders are earning less money! But the debate included the idea of changing the away goals rule for European games – perhaps to make it apply only if a tie is level after normal time of the two legs.

The argument is that there is no need for it, because teams are not so negative away. But we would need to think very hard before making that change. Changing the away goals rule would alter the whole complexion of the Champions League. New rules are good only if – like three points for a win all those years ago – they improve the game.

Life as a film star...

You have asked me how my life as a film star has been going! When I wrote my last column, I was about to be filmed in the Christmas comedy which my Napoli players are appearing in. My aim was to keep a low profile and I did that, thanks to Pepe Reina, who I can always rely on when I'm in a tight spot! When the cameras were rolling, I passed the ball to Pepe who said some words. And that was that! I think that's the start and finish of my film career!

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
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

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Chosen to lead the women's wing of the ruling Zanu-PF, the wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding the 90-year old
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model of a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution