Spanish midfielder Juan Mata claims his best season in England came when he was under the guidance of Rafael Benitez.
Benitez spent over half a season at Chelsea following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo in November 2012.
Mata, 27, says the 2012-13 season when he was at Chelsea was the best of his five years in England so far.
“I had a great experience with him,” Mata said of Benitez on radio show Al Primer Toque. “It was my best year in England, in which I had the best statistics.
“He gave me enormous confidence to play and made me feel important in the team.”
Benitez has come under pressure in Spain following Real Madrid’s difficult start to the season.
Mata defended the 55-year-old following Real’s 1-1 draw against rivals Atletico Madrid.
“He is a strategic coach, but not defensive,” Mata said. “He prepares his tactics a lot and we as players need to know how to use that.
“He’s a coach that when the game needs an attacking edge, he uses all the attacking power he has. And when you have to defend he knows how to do that as well.
“He understands very well what could determine a game in each moment, no matter what went well or not in the last few games.”
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