Benitez’s position has been increasingly questioned during recent weeks — and Mourinho was now quickly added to the local media’s list of potential replacements alongside Madrid’s B team coach Zinedine Zidane.
Madrid-backing sports daily Marca quickly ran a poll which had 48% of 47,662 respondents saying they would support former Madrid coach Mourinho returning to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu immediately to replace Benitez.
Blancos fans being split almost straight down the middle is a familiar sight — this was pretty much the case when Mourinho left in May 2013 after three tense years.
The Portuguese coach also left behind a very split Madrid dressing room, having clashed with many key players including then club captain Iker Casillas, current skipper Sergio Ramos and now fading superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
Nevertheless, Blancos president Florentino Perez chose to defend Mourinho’s record, when speaking on El Larguero radio show on Thursday evening.
“When Mourinho came in we had been knocked out for five seasons in the last 16 of the Champions League,” Perez said.
“We were number 13 in the Uefa rankings. And when Mourinho left, we were top of Uefa’s rankings — the place we should be.
"In his three years we reached three semi-finals, and were unlucky each year not to reach the final. He gave us a push, of intensity and motivation.”
Perez did not mention that after so many years of failure, Madrid finally claimed their 10th European Cup the year after Mourinho left.
With Carlo Ancelotti soothing the problems among the players and fans and the team playing some beautiful football at times.
Ancelotti’s sacking last summer re-opened the breaches. Fans and pundits are angry again after their recent Clasico embarrassment, being thrown out of the Copa del Rey and slipping well back in the title race.
Dressing room figures including Ronaldo and Ramos are thought to be unhappy with Benitez’s methods.
On Saturday, asked what mood he expected at the following day’s home game against Rayo Vallecano, Benitez made a call for unity.
“The atmosphere is much better than some media outlets say,” he said.
“We must forget about what is happening around us, and focus on playing. At end of season there can be judgements, but for the moment it is about supporting the team.”
There were again whistles and chants against both coach and president before, during and after the game — even though Madrid won 10-2, playing an hour against nine men.
Most Bernabeu regulars know that hammering teams at home [22-3 now on aggregate against Getafe, Malmo and Rayo since the Clasico] does not mean anything is really resolved.
Florentino appears unwilling to make snap mid-season decisions — and continues, at least publicly, to back Benitez.
“We chose Rafa Benitez as we believed he was the right person for this moment, to fix a problem we had,” the club chief said on Thursday.
“Since January we suffered a big deterioration. We needed a new impetus — and if we thought Rafa Benitez was the coach for this, how are we going to tell him to leave after three months?”
An increasingly nervous looking Benitez fixing the deep problems at the Bernabeu seems almost impossible. But Florentino surely knows that bringing back a divisive figure like Mourinho would not help in the short-term.
Should results dive after Christmas, an emergency internal promotion for either popular former galactico Zidane, or experienced youth system director Victor Fernandez, is more likely.
Mourinho returning next summer as part of a big shake-up, remains a possibility however.