According to former Liverpool flop Jermaine Pennant, Rafa Benitez’s ‘boring’ training sessions and obsession with shape and tactics held him back from reaching his potential – with him claiming that the Spaniard was a ‘nightmare’ to play under.
This comes from the 35-year old’s latest book “Mental: Bad Behaviour, Ugly Truths and the Beautiful Game”, with him being anything but complimentary when discussing Benitez’s style of management.
He signed at Anfield for £8m way back in the summer of 2006, going onto score just three goals in 81 games for the Reds – although it was all Rafa’s fault by the sounds of it.
As revealed by The Mirror, here’s what he’s had to say about Rafa – criticising his approach both on the pitch and in training:
“On the pitch, often I can see what’s best. Ultimately you have to trust the players once they cross the white line. But with Rafa, it was constant directions.
“Just sometimes, he might as well have turned a player into an Xbox, dressed me up like RoboCop and put a picture of my face on it. I’m not a defensive midfielder. I’m not James Milner, who keeps it simple. I’m a flair player and do my own thing. But his constant instructions really restricted me. They stopped me from being free. He could never let me do my thing.
“When you have so many instructions, it makes it so difficult. You’ve got some instructions and tactics in your mind and yet he’s shouting even more at you. All of a sudden you’re confused. You’ve got two sets of instructions in your mind and you’re left wondering what to do. It means that, suddenly, you mess up with a simple pass because your mind is all over the place.
“Honestly, Rafa was a nightmare like that.”
Ok, maybe Rafa’s approach wasn’t for Jermaine, but to suggest he held him back is weak on his part and a pathetic excuse for his personal shortcomings at Liverpool.
Perhaps he needed to spend more time listening and knuckling down. As we know with Rafa, a player will soon fail in his system if he puts his needs ahead of that of the teams.
Pennant then spoke about his frustrations on the training pitch when playing under Benitez, claiming his methods were ‘so boring’, with him insisting to focus on ‘shape and tactics’ – also suggesting his man management skills were non existent and left to others:
“There were times when I would get so angry about how boring and repetitive training was that I would just lose it and shout, ‘For f*** sake – just give us a bit of a five-a-side!’
“As a player, you just want a bit of fun, to make training good and lively. But, with Rafa, the training was so boring that you’d come in and all you’d want to do was slit your wrists! The amount of time in training that we’d do shape, tactics and nothing else!”
“With Rafa, it is all about himself. It was either his way or no way. The man management was down to his staff. That was why, when Pako Ayestarán (his assistant) went, they had a parting of the ways and things started to go downhill a bit.”
Pretty poor and petty from Pennant, this.
Yes he may have found it difficult, and I don’t doubt that some players will struggle with Rafa’s meticulous and obsessional approach to tactics and shape, but if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.
There’s a reason Rafa is a world renowned, Champions League winning manager and Jermaine Pennant is a forgotten prima donna who failed to make any real impact at any of the 15 clubs he played for over his 20-year career in the game.