When we thought of Rafa Benitez as a manager we thought of the stereotype that was portrayed by the English press while he was the manager at Liverpool for six years. A manager in the true continental style who was aloof from his players and wasn’t particularly a good man-manager or very personal with his players.
There is the piece that Steven Gerrard said in his book that he wished Rafa had said to him well-done a few times after some of the games he played – which he never did.
Steven also said Rafa never called him anything other than Gerrard in the dressing room and on the training field even when he called other Liverpool players by their nicknames and first names. Steven revealed he was never really close to his manager while Rafa was at Liverpool.
Great shot of Rafa arriving at St. James’ Park last Friday
But here’s four things we have learned about Rafa in the last six days that have surprised us as we have learned about the man in the short six days he’s been at Newcastle.
- Rafa seems a very good man-manager and it started as soon as he came in last Wednesday when he trained with the players and told them one very big reason he came to the club was that he knew we had some very good players here.
That’s who he was talking to of course – and he also made the point that he expected 100% from them in training sessions and in the games – obviously addressing the fact that we have been an up and down team under Steve McClaren.
After the game on Monday night he had only praise for the commitment of the Newcastle players, although he wasn’t particularly happy we lost the game.
Rafa only wanted to point out the many positive things the players had done during the game and that they had kept going for 95 minutes pushing forward.
We expect Rafa to start to get the best out of some of our star players very soon – and it was a decent enough start last Monday night.
In short, we didn’t realize he was such a good man-manager.
- He is charismatic and there were some great shots taken of him when he arrived at St. James’ Park and he seemed just delighted to be at Newcastle, as much as it was a total shock to the Newcastle fans that a manager as good as Rafa would want to come and try to save Newcastle from relegation.
When he finally arrived on Friday he looked relaxed, confident. smiling and genuinely delighted to be signing on as the new Newcastle United manager.
It’s a match made in heaven between Rafa Benitez and the Newcastle fans.
- Rafa seems to have known for years about Newcastle United and how big a club it was and how great the Geordie fans are.
He has talked since he arrived about the conversations they had at Liverpool before they visited Newcastle and talked about what a big club it was and it was very similar to Liverpool but that we were struggling in the Premier League.
So those stories linking Rafa to Newcastle while he was at Naples over the last two years or so seem to be true.
Yes – those stories we said were completely made up – we were wrong on that – and glad to be too.
Rafa obviously wanted the job at Newcastle and was delighted to come – as surprising as that still seems to us.
- The 55 year-old is very much a family man devoted to his family of wife Maria de Montserrat and their two daughters Claudia, who was born in Madrid in 1999, and Ágata who was born in Valencia in 2002.
Rafa was married back in 1998 while he had been in management for a short five years, and it is the very fact he wanted to be close to his family in the Liverpool area that were one of the major reasons for wanting to join an English club – Newcastle.
The Benitez family live in the village of Caldy on the Wirral Peninsula, which is just less than 200 miles from Newcastle and takes about a three and a half hours drive by car.
Note to Mike Ashley – It’s much quicker by helicopter.
What have you learned about Rafa that has surprised you since he’s been on Tyneside?