Benitez’s tactics go against Real Madrid's tradition
Benitez's pragmatism continues to leave him at odds with a stellar dressing room
PARIS ST GERMAIN 0
REAL MADRID 0
For all their history of extravagance, Real Madrid have become slaves to conservatism.
Their route into the Champions League's last 16 will require little, if any, negotiation but it comes at a cost of an identity unbecoming of the 10-time European champions.
Where Carlo Ancelotti once inspired the natives of the Santiago Bernabeu, his successor has made them increasingly restless - casting aside glamorous football with reckless abandon.
Rafael Benitez will argue that Real's current unbeaten record, and status as the continent's second-highest team for chance creation, vindicates his long-standing methodology.
But exceptional, as he proudly described it, was not the buzz-word used on the streets of the Spanish capital to summarise their stalemate with Paris Saint-Germain yesterday morning (Singapore time).
A third goalless draw of the season - a tally recorded across a combined three previous campaigns - flew in the face of any potential bravado from a performance in the Parc des Princes shorn of Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema, to name but three.
Such performances would have warranted plaudits a decade ago, during his spell in charge at Liverpool - but, as time and circumstances have changed, Benitez seemingly, refuses to.
INABILITY TO SCORE
Cristiano Ronaldo's goals "guarantee" appeared to lack an extended warranty as Real's inability to score in a Champions League group game for the first time since 2008, preceding Jose Mourinho's tenure, provided another indelible mark against his manager's record.
Benitez's managerial path so often aligns with the current Chelsea boss, himself also under siege, that it evokes parallels of Brian Clough and Don Revie, one of English football's most infamous feuds, in attempting to outdo his illustrious predecessor's accomplishments.
At Stamford Bridge, Inter Milan and now the Bernabeu, he has been a man continually standing in Mourinho's shadow.
Should Real remain in pole position atop La Liga when all is said and done on May 15 next year, he is still unlikely to have, to quote Clough's ethos, won it better.
Even that success offers no guarantee of safety. Bernd Schuster was sacked six months after guiding Real to the title in 2008, while Ancelotti was deposed barely a year on from securing La Decima, their long-awaited 10th European crown.
Ironically, Benitez's obsession with betterment mirrors the staple of Real's philosophy.
They are a club like no other in the global game - player power reigns supreme, discontent is perennially one unsatisfactory performance away and winning without style is disregarded as a hollow victory.
The latter now provides the basis for Benitez's continued chastening.
Preaching pragmatism, rather than panache and procession, continues to leave him at odds with a stellar dressing room, still bruised by Ancelotti's sacking at the end of last season, and the demands of the socios, the all-important members who dictate Real's modern whim.
Florentino Perez has already seen off nine managers during a 12-year tenure as president at the Bernabeu.
Benitez's refusal to restore Real's accustomed footballing ideals leaves his potential 10th deposition continually lurking around the corner.