Benitez dismisses reports of spat with Rodriguez
MADRID: Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez has dismissed reports he has a poor relationship with James Rodriguez and said all he wants is for the Colombia playmaker to play well and score goals.
Rodriguez, one of Real's standout performers in midfield in his debut season in 2014-15, returned to action recently after nearly two months out with a thigh injury but Benitez has used him sparingly, prompting speculation the pair do not get on.
The 24-year-old has only started three La Liga games in 2015-16 and has not featured in the Champions League.
Benitez, who took over from the sacked Carlo Ancelotti at the end of last term, told reporters on Tuesday that Rodriguez had his "full support and confidence".
"There is no problem, he is a great player," Benitez, who has been under pressure in recent weeks as Real stumbled in La Liga, told a news conference ahead of Wednesday's King's Cup last 32, first leg at third-tier Cadiz.
"The more he trains and plays the closer he will be to the James that we all know and love," he added.
"The issue is clear. What I want is to see the best James in each match, scoring lots of goals."
Real are still smarting after leaders and champions Barcelona hammered them 4-0 at the Bernabeu in last month's La Liga 'Clasico' and although they recovered to win their last two games they did not really convince.
Benitez is likely to give his reserves a chance to impress against Cadiz as Real get their domestic Cup campaign underway on the south coast.
The former Valencia, Liverpool, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Napoli manager also had words of support for Real striker Karim Benzema.
The French forward is under investigation in a case of alleged bribery involving his international team mate Mathieu Valbuena and a sex video. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Tuesday that the 27-year-old Benzema, who has denied wrongdoing, should not be called up to the national squad.
"I support Karim as a person and I am delighted with him as a footballer," Benitez said when asked about Valls' comments.
"He is a fundamental player for us up front and makes those around him better."
Full back Marcelo has not recovered from injury and will not be available for the Cadiz game.