Before Rafa Benitez came to Newcastle 18 months ago, we thought Rafa was a cold manager who hardly talked to his players.
And that was from the press reports we read during his successful time at Liverpool and especially the comments of Liverpool’s outstanding captain Steven Gerrard.
Steven has said that he hardly ever got a compliment from Rafa, yet we have found Rafa at Newcastle be a warm guy who seems to talk to his players one-on-one a lot of the time.
Steven Gerrard and Rafa Benitez talking during Liverpool training
Steven has tried to clarify those past comments as he had this to say to BBC 5 Live:
“It’s a difficult one to explain – sometimes I’ve spoken about Rafa and mentioned the word ‘cold’.”
“And some people take that the wrong way and think you’ve fallen out with him and that you don’t get on with him.”
“I think it’s just he’s very different in terms of style to say a Brendan Rodgers or Gerard Houllier.”
“They focused loads on the man management and got really close to the players and talk to them a lot away from the game.”
“Rafa doesn’t really get involved in that sort of stuff. He’s just a different style of manager and different style of man management.”
“He used to try stuff like provocation with me. He’d maybe have a little bit of a pop at me or be a little critical at the right times where he knew he’d get a reaction from me going into big games.”
“Or if I’d scored two goals in a game – he’d take me off knowing that I’d be upset with that and I’d be fired up to prove him wrong.”
“He always leaves you where you’ve got to try and impress him and always leaves the relationship where you’re trying to get praise out of him – it’s like trying to get blood out of a stone.”
“He always focuses on small details, a very organized coach and makes sure individuals are well-drilled in every position and then he goes through the units.”
“He always did the team shape on a daily basis.”
“It’s probably the part of the training that he focuses most on whereas coaches around him, for example, might do a shooting session, getting possession and other stuff.”
“But when it comes down to how he wants his 11 to be drilled in possession and out of possession.”
“He always makes sure that every single player in his 11 and his unit, those that are ready to come off the bench, know exactly what’s expected of them.”
It could be that Rafa has mellowed with age – that tends to happen I’ve noticed.
And he is likely to be a better manager now than he was at Liverpool.
We think that’s true, from what we’ve seen of the man in the last 18 months.
What do you think?