On 16 April 1960, Rafael Benítez Maudes was born in Madrid.
A midfielder, he played his youth football for Real Madrid Aficionados, the secondary reserve team for Real Madrid C.F. His senior career started in 1974, when he joined Real's primary reserve team, Real Madrid Castilla C.F. He played there from 1974 to 1981, making 247 appearances and scoring 73 goals. He subsequently played for Spanish sides A.D. Parla (1981-85; 124 appearances, 28 goals) and C.D. Linares (1985-86; 34 appearances, 17 goals) before injuries forced him to end his playing career at the age of 26.
Benítez stayed in football, however, joining Real Madrid's coaching staff from 1986 to 1994, working at first with the reserve squads, then advancing to assistant manager for the first team. After the 1993-94 season, he left Real to become manager of Real Valladolid in the Primera División, but was sacked after winning only two of his first 23 matches in charge. He then moved to C.A. Osasuna in the Segunda División, but was again sacked after achieving only one win in his first nine matches.
Benítez's fortunes soon turned, however, as the peripatetic coach led both C.F. Extremadura (1997-99) and C.D. Tenerife (2000-01) to promotion to the Primera División. In 2001, he moved to Valencia C.F., where he won La Liga twice (in 2002 and 2004) and the UEFA Cup (2004).
After his double-winning season in 2004, Benítez resigned from Valencia over disagreements with the sporting director and moved to his current home, Liverpool F.C., for the 2004-05 season. He led them to immediate success by winning the 2005 UEFA Champions League, followed shortly after by the FA Cup trophy in 2006.