The new Southampton manager 45 year-old Argentine Mauricio Pellegrino has a lot of thanks he gives to Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez, who he was an assistant coach to when Rafa was manager at both at Liverpool and Inter-Milan.
Mauricio played for Valencia as a center-back (he is 6ft 4ins tall) from 1999 through 2005, so he played for Rafa when the Spaniard managed Valencia in the most successful period in their history.
They won La Liga t in 2001–2002 and then again in 2003–2004 and Rafa went on to win the UEFA Cup in season 2003–2004 – three huge trophies in a short three seasons – and then he joined Liverpool in 2004.
Pellegrino was also signed by Benitez for Liverpool in January of 2005 when Pellegrino was a free agent and signed a six-month contract, which was not extended.
Mauricio has been singing the praises of the current Newcastle manager in an interview he has given today in the Sun – he talks a lot about all the things he learned from Benitez:
“Rafa was one of the most important people I’ve ever worked with in football.” “I shared with him three wonderful years at Valencia as a player and got the opportunity to work with him for two years at Liverpool as a coach.”
“I was living one of the most important experiences — not just about football but of my life.”
“When Rafa came from Tenerife to Valencia, there were a lot of questions about whether he was the right manager for us.”
“But quickly, he convinced people with results.” “He was very good to me and made sure I did not dwell on negatives from the past and told me to concentrate on the future.”
“In the first year we won La Liga and then again in the third year. We also won the UEFA Cup.” “It was one of the most important moments in the club’s history.”
“He was brilliant at using psychological methods to maximize the potential of a player.” “That is the most important thing I learned from Rafa.”
“As a player, you always knew what you were doing every day.”
“He made things very clear in our minds.” “Rafa brought me to Liverpool to help the team defensively.”
“I knew his methods and he used me to help the players on the pitch — and that year we won the Champions League.”
“I couldn’t play in the final because I had played games already that season in the Champions League for Valencia.”
“But I did my best to help the team and it was an emotional time to win that final against Milan.”
“I was working in Valencia with young players, 15 years old, and when Rafa called me I had no doubt about the opportunity.”
“For me, it was like being with a master for two years and I learned a lot.”
So it looks like two special games for Rafa in the upcoming Premier League season will be with Liverpool and Southampton.
We usually get taken apart at St Mary’s Stadium, but we assume those days are dead and gone now …..
Rafa’s certainly got some reputation in football management and we are over the moon to have him as the Newcastle manager.
Note to Managing Director Lee Charnley – please sign four players for Rafa by a week tomorrow – we need to keep him happy.