Steven Gerrard has given an expert insight into the management style of Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez, revealing all about the Spaniard who he worked with for several years at Anfield.
Benitez won four trophies during his time on Merseyside, including that famous Champions League success in 2005, and Gerrard has spoken out about the Spaniard, revealing what he was like to play under when speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live:
“It’s a difficult one to explain – sometimes I’ve spoken about Rafa and mentioned the word ‘cold’ (to describe him).
“Some people take that the wrong way and think you’ve fallen out with him and that you don’t get on with him.
“I think it’s just he’s very different in terms of style to say a Brendan Rodgers or Gerard Houllier.”
“They focused loads on the man management and got really close to the players and talk to them a lot away from the game.
“Rafa doesn’t really get involved in that sort of stuff. He’s just a different style of manager and different style of man management.”
Gerrard then went on to reveal how the Spaniard used to try to provoke him into big performances ahead of crucial games – something the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Mikel Merino may perhaps experience in the near future:
“He’d maybe have a little bit of a pop at me or be a little critical at the right times where he knew he’d get a reaction from me going into big games,”
“Or if I’d scored two goals in a game – he’d take me off knowing that I’d be upset with that and I’d be fired up to prove him wrong.
“He always leaves you where you’ve got to try and impress him and always leaves the relationship where you’re trying to get praise out of him – it’s like trying to get blood out of a stone.
“He always focuses on small details, a very organised coach and makes sure individuals are well-drilled in every position and then he goes through the units.”
An interesting insight. It seems Benitez doesn’t allow his players to get too comfortable or carried away with themselves, maintaining that element of respect where he keeps his players hungry to improve and impress him even more.
Finally, Gerrard then spoke about Benitez’s style on the training pitch, offering an insight into how he’d like to set up tactically.
“He always did the team shape on a daily basis. It’s probably the part of training that he focuses most on whereas coaches around him for example might do a shooting session, getting possession and other stuff. But when it comes down to it, he wants his 11 to be drilled in possession and out of possession.
“He always makes sure that every single player in his 11 and his unit, those that are ready to come off the bench, know exactly what’s expected of them.”
This is something we can certainly relate to. You can tell each and every player in our team has a clear role to carry out, emphasised by Benitez’s frantic instructions on the sideline to make sure they are doing exactly what’s required of them.
Benitez’s style is certainly not glamorous, both on and off the pitch, but it’s certainly effective when a group of players buy into it.