"They thought that Liverpool Football Club was a business, a company, a fanchise, and it's more than this when you can see the fans, see the feelings, see the stadium atmosphere. So it's different, it's not where you go and you just eat hot dogs and then go to another city with another franchise. Liverpool Football Club was different, the fans are different, and I think that they didn't realise this."
These long off weeks do have a way of bringing the past around for a quick visit, and with Rafa Benitez doing his first sizable interview for television since his time at Inter ended and he returned to his home on Merseyside, it was likely only a matter of time before I would in turn take the chance to pass it along here on the Liverpool Offside. Though there are a few awkward moments where he does his best to avoid answering the questions as asked, there are some informative passages in it such as when he touches on the issue of having to sell to buy over his final seasons at the club. He doesn't get into the details of having made a profit in his last five transfer windows under Hicks and Gillett, an important point often ignored by those who continue to insist he's the one who left the squad looking so threadbare, but it's clear he holds some level of resentment towards the at times shabby treatment he received for his "thin squad" full of bargain basement players who weren't Liverpool quality when he had had little choice but to scrape the bottom of the barrel as the years passed and money became scarce with a growing debt to service.
Also of interest is his talk of the how managers can't admit to individual mistakes to the media following a match because it would lead to them being constantly undermined. That doesn't mean they haven't made mistakes and aren't trying to address those shortcomings honestly with both themselves and the team, and it seems a fairly obvious reality of holding a top managerial position, but it does bear repeating as some can at times forget this reality when managers stick to an us against the world mentality when the going gets tough. Still, as he says, a good manager has to be constantly critical of himself and looking to improve the way he does things no matter how well or poorly things are going on the pitch and with the club, even if admitting that publicly in tough times would be the quickest way to get one's walking papers.
The best part, though, comes towards the end when he talks about working under the previous owners, and the way that the trip to Athens and a Champions League final in their first season, followed up by the purchase of Torres, gave him hope for the future that obviously didn't last. When the club did start to run into problems, or when it simply needed the guiding hand of men who knew the sport and culture, it became obvious just how little they knew about Football, the club's history, or what it took to compete at the highest level in England and Europe.
To round things off, there is also talk about only wanting to go to a new club and job when he can find a project, something that he can work on and build over a number of years, and of the difficulty in finding a situation where a manager might be afforded that kind of time and leeway. He does think that England is slightly more set up to have such opportunities than the big continental leagues, and he also talks of his family being settled in England, so one expects that whenever he does take another job it will be in the Premier League somewhere. Whether it might be back at Liverpool or not, though, is obviously a subject he tries to side-step, instead choosing to praise Dalglish. That, at least, is obviously a big change from the at times antagonistic stance he took towards Roy Hodgson, a man whose presence he clearly felt was a disservice to the club and its supporters when on some level it seems clear that he himself is still a fan.
Needless to say, it will be interesting to see where he ends up going forward, and one imagines a lot Liverpool fans will always have a soft spot for him just as he does for many of them.