We’ve been surprised that Rafa Benitez has looked quite a warm personality since he joined Newcastle United and the thing we remember when he was at Liverpool was that he was reported to be detached from his players.
Steven Gerrard’s comments that he never told him he had played well during Rafa’s Liverpool stay also stands out.
But Steven did admit Rafa was the best coach he ever had at Liverpool and that he played his best football when Rafa was at the club.
We’ve seen Rafa be warm with a number of the Newcastle players and certainly no breakups with his players at Newcastle.
Albert Riera while at Liverpool
It seems to us the press have made far too much of the stuff that was going on when he was at Liverpool.
Back in March 2010, Benitez fined and transfer listed then 28 year-old Spanish International Albert Riera after the left-sided player had said Rafa was coaching a sinking ship.
In addition, Riera was quoted in the press as saying the relationship Rafa had with his players was “practically nil” and hinted in addition the reason he wasn’t in the Liverpool starting line-up was personal.
However, six years on Riera has explained his quotes at the time were taken out of context as he tried to explain to Anfield HQ recently:
“The only problem was the media.” “I was frustrated when I was not included in the Spain squad for the World Cup in 2010, because I hadn’t had a lot of playing time in the Premier League for like two months.”
“So journalists put some words in my mouth saying that the person who was responsible for me not being included in the Spain squad was Rafa.” “After that I did another interview and said that I have to be my first critic.”
“But the media was not interested anymore.” “I have a normal relationship with Rafa – I meet him from time to time like at Pepe Reina’s wedding, or some family parties.”
“Rafa and Pepe also share the same agent.” “I had signed with him, too, when I was 18, but I’ve never had an agent since then because I was scared of them.”
“I’m the one who manages my career with the help of my lawyer.”
Of course you cannot be too close to your players because then your judgement can be affected, as it seemed to be with Steve McClaren, who wouldn’t drop either Sissoko or Wijnaldum when he had ample opportunity to do so after some away games last season.
It seems the players ultimately lost their respect for McClaren.
Certainly if you are playing and look at the touchline and see the coach with his head in his hands it wouldn’t give you much confidence – you would think – we are not doing very well.
You cannot be the nice guy all the time and be ultra successful, because on occasion it sometimes needs a ruthless streak.
But there’s no doubt who is the boss at Newcastle United these days.
Note – with a 0-0 draw against Slovakia and Wales hammering Russia 3-0 tonight – Wales win the group in Euro 2016 – a poor show by England today – they still don’t seem to have the killer instinct against weaker sides.