Benitez: Real my 'sweetheart' club
Rafael Benitez has described Real Madrid as his sporting "sweetheart", as speculation mounts that he could be in line to replace Jose Mourinho at the Bernabeu next summer.
Speaking on Radio Nacional de Espana, the interim Chelsea manager all but declared himself available to take over at Real Madrid, suggesting his strong bond with the club's supporters would make him a candidate to replace Mourinho if he makes his anticipated departure at the end of this season.
"As a manager, you always have your sweetheart," Benitez said of Real Madrid. "I have a link with the fans and they have treated me well. I arrived at Real Madrid when I was 13-years-old and I'm from Madrid, but I don't want to get involved in this speculation because my words aren't always interpreted.
"I have a contract (with Chelsea) until the end of the season and I am going to do everything possible for this club to have the best success."
Benitez also claimed that he would be interested in becoming manager of the Spanish national team before his coaching career concludes, as he suggested the temporary role he has taken on at Chelsea is tougher than he anticipated when he succeeded Roberto Di Matteo back in November.
"You cannot do everything you want to do on a tactical level when you only have so much time," he added. "We are a team in transition and we are the team which has played the most games in all of Europe.
"The biggest problem for me with Chelsea (supporters) is that I was manager of Liverpool and I am paying for the success I had at Liverpool. Nevertheless I will keep working hard with professionalism.
"I am focused on achieving success with Chelsea. I am the happiest man in the world when we win a game."
Benitez is listed as favourite to succeed Mourinho at Real Madrid by several bookmakers, with a recent survey of Real Madrid fans confirming he would be a popular choice to take the reins.