Thursday 25 December 2014

Forgotten man Benitez content to wait for perfect opportunity

Rafa Benitez will be back but only if he can challenge for trophies, writes Dion Fanning

Published 09/09/2012 | 05:00

Perfectionism has made Rafael Benitez the manager that he is and it may be perfectionism that has prevented him returning to football since he left Inter Milan.

Benitez still waits for the right job, certain he can do what he has always done and improve teams, but determined it will be a team that can challenge for the biggest trophies.

Football is a modish business too and he has been forgotten by some despite his accomplishments at Valencia and Liverpool looking even more notable in the tough years that have followed for both clubs.

Last summer, Liverpool had a vacancy but they chose not to talk to their former manager. It may be best for all sides to consider new challenges but Benitez believes it was odd that he wasn't contacted.

"It was strange," he says. "We know the club, the players, the Academy and we have even more experience now. The fans were positive about the idea and if you read the book you will understand why. So it was strange not to be approached."

The book is Champions League Dreams. In it Benitez remembers some of his greatest nights as Liverpool manager when challenging for the European Cup was once again what the club was about.

"Some people were taking these great games for granted," he says. "We used to play so many important games that it seemed it was normal and it wasn't."

Benitez will be in Dublin this week to launch the book at the Bord Gáis Theatre in an event titled 'An Evening with Rafa Benitez'.

He chose Dublin to launch it having been overwhelmed by his reception when he was honoured by the Philosophical Society at Trinity in March. Benitez being Benitez, he also had some statistical evidence.

"We have the website now and we can see we have a lot of visitors from Ireland. But I also have some Irish friends and they were always explaining to me how big Liverpool is in Ireland and how many fans travel to each game."

His Irish friends will be present on Thursday and the current situation at Liverpool may be raised. Some of the more excitable voices since the closing of the transfer window have suggested John W Henry and FSG may be as bad as Hicks and Gillett. Benitez still remembers those struggles, as well as the final year with Christian Purslow.

"I was working three years under Hicks and Gillett and it was quite difficult, especially the last year. Ian Ayre said Liverpool was close to administration and still we were performing on the pitch. I don't know how it is under the new owners so I can't compare."

He won't be drawn on how he would have reacted if he had been in Brendan Rodgers' position on the last day of the transfer window. "I have a lot of respect for other managers and I don't know the inside story so I wouldn't like to comment."

There was also talk from John Henry about the attempts being made to reverse the errors of previous regimes. Benitez accepts he made mistakes -- "there is no doubt about that, everybody does" -- but jokes he will provide a full answer at the Bord Gáis Theatre.

He isn't worried about missing out on the biggest clubs -- "It's a question of time" -- but refuses to be drawn on how close he came to taking over at Chelsea when Andre Villas-Boas was sacked.

He wouldn't rule out international management but repeated that he would like to be challenging for trophies and he feels club football and the Champions League is where he wants to do that.

His time at Liverpool may seem a long time ago but he points out that this distant past occurred only a few years ago.

"People were talking about 'the past', but just a few years ago Liverpool FC was number one in Europe." For that reason, he wrote the book and for that reason he expects to be challenging the top clubs in Europe very soon again.

Sunday Indo Sport

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