Date: 15th April 2011 at 9:30am
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In a wide ranging interview, former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez answers questions on a number of issues ranging from his time at Liverpool, his time at Inter Milan and what he is looking forward to in the future.

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What have you been doing with your time since you left Inter Milan?

“I have been trying to enjoy my time with the family. This has included taking my children to the school, spending time with my wife and the family and walking my dogs around. I have also been helping the coaches at school and going to the cinema. These are things you normally cannot do when you are working with your team.”

You are very ambitious coach, but how disappointed were you when things didn’t work out at Inter?

“I have another view, I think it was positive. In the circumstances that we had we won two trophies which was a good achievement, especially winning the FIFA Club World Cup as this was the main target of the club. Six months and winning two trophies is not a bad statistic if you consider it in this way.”

You have now experienced the three top leagues in Europe- Premier League, La Liga and Serie A. what do you see are the main differences between managing in these three leagues?

“The Serie A is more tactical. The Spanish league is more tactical and technical at the same time and the Premier league is more physical. You can see the pace and tempo in the Premier League is higher than the other leagues. Serie A is slower and the Spanish league is different as you can see players with quality and with pace.”

You have an exceptional record in cup competitions. With what mind set do you approach these knock-out tournaments and in particular the Champions League?

“The difference between cup competitions and the league is time. You need to be consistent for 9 months in the league and you rely on the squad. In the cup competition you need to be ready for the knock out and you have to try to do your best. If you have players with good ability in the squad which we had then you have a good chance. In the league we always talk about 9 months and it is always more difficult.”

Looking at this year’s Champion’s League, do you think an English side can win it?

“I think so. Obviously there are strong teams in the competition but I think the English teams have good options. You also have Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Barcelona who will be there. I definitely think Chelsea and United are strong enough to win the competition.”

From your experiences working in England and abroad, how would compare the approaches of both British and foreign coaches?

“It is the style of the league you must consider. In Italy it is more tactical and you have to take your time and there is not such a rush. In England teams try to win straight from the beginning, and in Spain it is a mix of both. In the English and Spanish league managers tend to have similar style of management.”

Are you ready to return to management now and if so where would you like to manage?

“I am trying to be ready, I am watching as many games as I can but in a different way as you are not under pressure and you do not need to prepare for the next game. I am still analysing games at the moment. If I have good offers abroad it would be ok but my priority is to return to the premier league.”

What is it about managing in England that you love so much?

“I think that the people have more respect and are more patient. You can build and prepare a team and work better with younger players. You have more time overall. In Italy or Spain you have one or two weeks and everything can change.”


Lucas Leiva is a player that you supported throughout your time at Anfield when perhaps some people didn’t necessarily appreciate him. How pleased have you been about his progress this season?

“I was defending Lucas from the beginning. He played a lot of games and the people in the stadium could see that he was working very hard and improving every day. The more mature a player he becomes the better he will become. I am so pleased for him because he is not only a fantastic player but a nice lad.”

Dirk Kuyt is another unsung hero for Liverpool and perhaps appreciated most when he was out injured at the world cup. What impresses you most about him?

“His commitment is great and he has such positive approach to everything whether it is professionally or with his personal life. He is a really nice lad and a fantastic player too.”

Pepe Reina is a world class goalkeeper and there is speculation of a move for him away from Liverpool. How important do you think it is that they keep hold of him?

“When any team has a good player it is important to keep them. Pepe is one of the key players for Liverpool so if he stays it will be a massive boost for Liverpool.”

You took Liverpool to second place in the Premier League. The closest they have come to winning the title for two decades. Despite off field financial ownership problems, do you think you get enough credit for that achievement?

“That will be a question of time. When you can look back and analyse the history of the past managers, then we will realise how difficult the task was that I achieved. Maybe in a few years.”

Fernando Torres said he was disappointed that the previous owners didn’t commit enough resources to improve the squad. Do you agree with that assessment?

“I think all the players and staff knew what was going on who were here at this time. It was a difficult time and we had to manage the situation. Had it not been for the situation we could have achieved even better things but I think we managed to achieve good things given the situation. Only time will tell whether Fernando was right or not to say those things.”

Fernando Torres scored 9 goals in 7 games under your management last season even though it wasn’t his best season. How did you manage to get the best out of him?

“Fernando is a good professional and although he had some injuries he was learning the English style. He was scoring a lot of goals at the beginning and at the end. He has a good mentality, he has good quality and his relationship with me was good also because we could talk in Spanish. When we needed to say something in Spanish we could say it clearly and we were not hiding anything.”

How close is the current Liverpool team to competing for the premier league title?

“This is more a question for Kenny Dalglish and not for me. I think they have a good team but it is more about having a good squad when you are looking at the league.”

There is a common view that English players are not as technically gifted as Spanish players. What is your assessment on that? What can be done to close the gap if there is one?

“There are very good players in England and very good players in Spain. The difference here in England is that it is more physical. In Spain you have to play in a different way and be technically superior. There are good players here in England, but there are more technical players in Spain.”

Do you think the national football centre at Burton will help English players to develop better technique?

“Spain has a tradition with the top sides where they work with young players where they emphasise technique from the beginning. I think this is something that can help English players.”

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