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Benitez tops poll to succeed Mourinho

Two months into his temporary reign at Chelsea, Rafael Benitez does have some highs to show for his controversial appointment at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez is the favoured successor to Jose Mourinho as Real Madrid boss among the La Liga club's membership, according to a survey carried out on behalf of Marca.

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The Madrid-based newspaper says Benitez is the preferred replacement should Mourinho leave next summer, with the vote of 21.4% of socios (members). Germany manager Joachim Low came second in the poll with 19.5% and current Swansea manager and ex-Madrid player Michael Laudrup was third with 15.6%.

A report in Friday's Daily Telegraph claimed that Benitez, a former Madrid youth-team coach, had been approached by a third party with a view to taking charge at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu next season. The claim ties in with an interview given to Spanish radio station Onda Cero in December when Benitez enigmatically suggested he had held talks about replacing Mourinho.

"I know things but I am not going to talk about Real Madrid, because I believe I should not," he said then, before refusing to give any further details beyond his "surprise" at Madrid's form this season.

Marca's research was carried out by polling company Sigma Dos, who spoke with 704 socios either at the Bernabeu before Sunday's 4-3 victory over Real Sociedad, or by telephone.

The survey found Madrid's supporters were split in their views regarding Mourinho, with 54% of those polled wanting him to stay on this summer and 42% preferring him to leave. Of those asked, 62 % said Mourinho's words and actions are damaging the image of the club, while 33% disagreed with that view.

Asked to rate the manager's performance out of ten, the Portuguese received an overall mark of 6.68.

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