Philosophically and emotionally, Rafa Benitez and Jurgen Klopp are fairly far removed from each other. Klopp brings his heavy metal football and wears his emotions on his sleeve, whereas Rafa is far more pragmatic and balanced. Regardless, both managers have—and will always have—a soft spot in the hearts of Liverpool supporters.
And it seems to be reciprocal too. For Benitez, it’s clear that the affection for Liverpool is still there, despite his best days roaming the Anfield sidelines being nearly a decade in the rearview mirror. In his pre-match press conference, Rafa had only kind words to say about his former club.
“At the moment, they’re one of the best teams, not just in Europe, but one of the best in the world,” Rafa said. “They haven’t won a trophy but there are so many strong teams, that can happen.
“Will they stay there? Yes. They are at the maximum level now and they can compete well against Manchester City or Barcelona or Bayern. They can stay there.
“Sometimes other teams are stronger. If that’s the case, that’s fair enough and you have to concentrate on the things you have done well and the things you haven’t and try and do better next year.”
Despite his incredible success as a manager—including a fantastically underrated job at Newcastle—Rafa seems to find himself in one ownership catastrophe after another. This hasn’t been lost on Rafa, and he took the opportunity to take a sly swipe at the current ownership situation at Newcastle.
“The problem now in football is how much money you spend and whether you can buy the best players.”
Hint, hint: if you want to keep Rafa, you should give him money. With even midtable-level support, Rafa would probably be pushing for European spots, instead of barely surviving relegation.
Regardless, Rafa seems to feel a connection with Newcastle fans, who are no doubt similar to Liverpool fans in terms of passion, support, and a feeling of togetherness.
“I feel the Liverpool fans, they love me because we won the Champions League in Istanbul, we won four trophies and were in three finals, and also the way we were defending the club against [the establishment].
“It’s similar to Newcastle, everything together, we fight and we stick together.”
For Rafa’s sake, I hope the ownership situation gets sorted, because he deserves much better. MUCH better. That said, now that he has successfully navigated Newcastle to safety, it would really be appreciated if they packed it in tonight. Come on, Rafa, do us a solid.