Rafa Benitez cuts an interesting figure in the minds of many LFC faithful. Architect of the 2005 Champions League-winning side and the man responsible for signing the likes of Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres, Benitez has etched his name into Liverpool lore for his accomplishments on the pitch.
Rafa, however, endeared himself to fans by his actions off it: claiming close ties to the Scouse community and, especially, laying his fealty at the gates of Anfield. Who among us, after all, can forget the sight of Rafa Benitez crying at the Hillsborough tribute in 2011 - mere months after his acrimonious exit at the hands of those Owners Who Shall Not Be Named. And, of course, we know that Rafa still makes his permanent home on Merseyside. He is, for all intents and purposes, a Scouser through and through.
Rafa commented directly on his tender spot for Liverpool:
“Obviously, it’s a special game for me. It will be emotional, because I spent so many years there, and have so many good memories. My family still live in Liverpool, so it is my home. I feel like I have a home here, but my family are there. I have a lot of positive, very good relationships with Liverpool fans, (including) the families connected to Hillsborough. There are a lot of connections, and it will be very emotional.”
Rafa’s passion for the club and the city was always apparent and, to hear him say it, will never wane. Despite, that the Liverpool “connection” is very much real, Rafa’s foremost concern is to win the match.
“The main thing is to win the game. It will be ‘all the best’ after the game.
”We won so many things there and I enjoyed every minute. My family are still there and the connection is still there.”
And we would expect nothing less. Rafa’s clear sentiment and heart for the city and club are not going to cause him to ease up tactically. And that means that regardless of Newcastle’s current place in the Premier League pecking order, they will be a team to worry about. Buckle up, Reds fans.