My tribe

Former Birmingham boss McLeish tribute to Chucho Benitez: Sir Alex rated him

Former Birmingham City boss Alex McLeish has paid tribute to the late Christian Benitez.

McLeish has paid his respects to Benitez, who died on Monday, aged 27.

"When I heard the news I was shocked, like everyone else was," McLeish told the Birmingham Mail "Chucho was such a lovely guy, he was always smiling and 27 is no age.

"My thoughts and sympathy go out to his wife, children and family.

"I've never ever stopped following his career since he left and he's been banging the goals in galore. I would have loved to have kept him at Birmingham.

"But we did what we did for the right reasons at the time.

"We felt that it was maybe right to try and get a couple of experienced strikers in. But that didn't happen and the club felt the price for Chucho was a bit high.

"He didn't score the goals, but it was his play and the assists. He was always dangerous. The big clubs feared him.

"I remember Sir Alex Ferguson saying to me that 'the wee guy's a handful'. We'd gone to Manchester United on the opening day, lost 1-0 but played well. Chucho had a couple of chances.

"He had that quickness over short distances, he would turn defenders and slide people in.

"Certainly he would have scored more goals and got even better, with more experience and after a first season settling in.

"I think the main thing then, though, was the money. Had we had the resources at the time to take him and still go for other players, then that would have been ideal.

"That next season we went down by one goal, really. One goal. With Chucho, he would have given us loads and a lot of options.

"In fact, given what happened, I'm pretty sure that if Christian Benitez had stayed and we had got our other targets, I'd still be at Birmingham right now."

About the author

Tribal Football Staff

Have your say
  • Add your favourite leagues and clubs
  • Build your own personal news stream
  • Easily share your favourite stories
  • Connect with what your friends are saying

Select your favourite
leagues and clubs
to get started.

Already part of MyTribe?