I’M not a fan who obsesses over what ex-Liverpool players and managers are up to. The Liverpool manager in the dug out is the most important person for me and, to quote the gentleman Steve Graves, “my favourites are the 11 lads playing for Liverpool”.
I’m not too concerned when the videos go round of Pepe Reina making a great save, or making a mistake a week later. I couldn’t tell you for sure where Real Madrid are in the Spanish League. The last time I saw Gerrard Houllier we were drinking champagne at the World Cup. Did I tell you I went to Brazil for the World Cup?
I haven’t got a clue what he has been up to since, only that he’s probably drank more champagne since then than I have.
It’s not that I don’t care. Or that I am ungrateful for what they did here. I wish most of them well. I just don’t have time to be worrying about them. There is always a Liverpool game in a day or two. I obsess about those.
Besides, if I started worrying too much about what Rafa Benitez was up to in Madrid, Neil Atkinson would tell me off for not concentrating enough on winning the league. And he tells me off for that quite enough.
I’m sure Rafa is fine with that. He is a man who knows all about your current goal being all consuming. What will confuse him more will be the seemingly endless supply of UK journalists and “rival” managers who won’t leave him alone.
He must wonder sometimes how long he has to work away from the country before they find someone else to pick on.
One of the most frequent to put the boot in is Brian Glanville. He took November’s heavy Real Madrid defeat to Barcelona as an opportunity to wheel out an old classic to anyone that might listen: that Rafa was “lucky” in Istanbul and isn’t the tactical genius everyone says he is.
In an article for the latest edition of World Soccer out this week entitled “Allardyce vindicated on Rafa’s mess”, Glanville decided that Barcelona’s 4-0 win was also some sort of victory for Sam Allardyce as well. Well, I suppose it’s the closest to a victory against Real Madrid he’ll ever get. Buy why? Let’s read on.
Glanville reported that a newspaper columnist had recently taken Allardyce to task “at inordinate and sardonic length for stating in his autobiography that when Liverpool had beaten Milan…in Istanbul it had been despite Rafa Benitez, rather than because of him”.
New issue of World Soccer on sale today! 50 greatest rivalries in football. https://t.co/M2RtlShy9O pic.twitter.com/4Fe7mCaNV1
— World Soccer (@WorldSoccerMag) December 4, 2015
I presume at some point in that column the question was asked why on earth Sam Allardyce was writing about Istanbul in his autobiography at all?
Allardyce wrote: “Of course he [Benitez] can say he won the Champions League with Liverpool, which is something I never did. But it was nowt to do with him.
“Steven Gerrard took that final by the scruff of the neck and dragged Liverpool back from 3-0 down against AC Milan to eventually win on penalties.”
Was he writing this because he didn’t have any of his own achievements to analyse, so he had to rip apart other people’s? Was he jealous that he couldn’t even win a Champions League trophy on Football Manager so was lashing out at those who have?
Was the chapter after about how Manchester United got absolutely battered in Barcelona in 1999, and how Alex Ferguson presumably got his team selection completely wrong?
Never mind anyway, because Brian agrees with “Big Sam”. He goes on to tell the apparently undisputed story of Istanbul. That Liverpool didn’t pick a defensive midfielder because the manager is an idiot.
That by “ALL” accounts (ALL!), the players, and especially the captain, screamed at the manager to bring Didi Hamann on at half time. Because Steven Gerrard was always telling the manager to move him out of central midfield. Rafa then went, “I never thought of that”, stuck Didi on, and the rest was history.
Forget the accounts you may have heard of half time in Istanbul. The manager frantically working to come up with a new system. Having to grab Djimi Traore out of the shower when they realised Steve Finnan was injured.
That the players sat in silent disbelief, only to hear You’ll Never Walk Alone being sung by the fans outside. Forget those accounts. Because Brian Glanville has ALL of them.
There are two main issues I have with this idea that Rafa Benitez had nothing to do with Istanbul (and loads of smaller ones to do with coaching throughout the season and that).
The first is, the AC Milan team that night was: Dida, Cafu, Maldini, Stam, Nesta, Pirlo, Gattuso, Seedorf, Kaka, Shevchenko, Crespo. Honestly, get on it. It’s loads of the best players of the last 30 years.
Now, have a look at the Liverpool squad of 2005. And think about how ridiculous the idea is that Liverpool just needed to pick Didi Hamann and everything would be fine. That we just needed to match them up for shape and win our battles.
If Rafa Benitez had picked Didi Hamann (which I certainly would have done by the way, but then just like Glanville and Big Sam, I haven’t won any European Cups either) we almost certainly wouldn’t have been 3-0 down at half-time. However, we probably wouldn’t have been level after 90 minutes either.
It would have been a sensible game that AC Milan probably would have found a way to win, with their much better players and that. After the game everyone would have congratulated Liverpool on simply getting there and we’d all still have got stuck in that bloody airport for hours, but been in less of a good mood.
Benitez decided he couldn’t be arsed with that. He studied the AC Milan team and tried to find a way to beat them. He watched their 3-1 semi-final second leg defeat against a similarly average PSV Eindhoven side playing with nothing to lose. He watched how they attacked the gaps in the Milan defence and thought he could do something similar.
He picked an attacking midfielder instead of a defensive one, in the hope it would surprise the opposition and not let them settle. He looked at his options, with Djibril Cisse only recently returning from injury, Fernando Morientes cup-tied and Vladimir Smicer about to leave, and gambled on the talented but frustrating Harry Kewell.
It didn’t work. Although there is an interesting sliding doors argument over the penalty we should have had. That can wait for another day.
So he gambled again. He changed to three at the back even though the team hadn’t played that way all season. He put players in unfamiliar positions and, when they tired, he shifted them round. This time it worked, and he won. With the dice loaded he continued to roll them until he found a way. He beat the house. He probably thought they’d build statues of him. Instead he gets no credit.
The other main issue I have with the idea that Benitez had nothing to do with Istanbul is it gives absolutely no credit to the manager for getting the team there in the first place. Like it was an invitational game we’d won entry to in a raffle. In actual fact the real “Miracle of Istanbul” was that Liverpool got to the final to play there.
The run was incredible.
The famous win against Olympiacos is known for a Gerrard thunderbolt, but was as equally down to some inspired substitutions to get us back into the game. We then beat Bayer Levekusen home and away without Xabi Alonso. We then beat Juventus, that season’s Serie A Champions by a mile, with Scott Carson in goal and Anthony Le Tallec up front.
They finished the job away from home in a hostile environment without Steven Gerrard and with Antonio Nunez playing right wing.
And then it was Chelsea in the semis. Who finished 37 (THIRTY SEVEN) points above Liverpool that season. Who won the title 12 points ahead of second-placed Arsenal, and 18 ahead of Manchester United. Whose manager was reigning champion of the competition.
We drew 0-0 away with Igor Biscan in centre mid. We then beat them at home 1-0 with Igor Biscan in centre mid. Didi Hamann, who apparently it’s impossible to win a Champions League game without, was unable to play in the first leg and only played 72 minutes of the second.
Rafa Benitez. He probably thought they’d build statues of him. And then he beat AC Milan in Istanbul.
That team. The Good, The Bad and the Traore. They beat them all. And then, if any proof was needed it wasn’t a fluke, Benitez got them to another final two years later. And then to the number one ranked team in Europe.
Maybe it doesn’t matter what snide useless football managers write about him in their memoirs. Maybe it doesn’t matter that some journalists rank football managers by who is nicest to them at press conferences and awards nights rather than trophies.
Those who were there in Taksim Square, or on The Kop at Chelsea, at St George’s Hall for the parade, or just screaming each goal in from their living rooms. They know. They might not have built a statue of him. But sorry to the hacks and no-marks, Rafa Benitez will always have Istanbul.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo/PA Images
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Fantastic article. Thanks for the read.
Love it. Was actually doing the tour of Anfield with a friend the week Benitez got sacked and the club done a fine job of ignoring his contribution to that win as well. I know things ended sourly with the regime in charge at the time but found it to be quite disrespectful that his name was a dirty word as far as they were concerned
Great piece. Ta John. No matter what some of those media muppets say, we know LFC wouldn’t win the European Cup without him. I regard Rafa as one of the best we’ve ever had, and I always will.
Granville has hated us for years.I recall him writing in World Soccer about being in a train full of reds from Witton Lane to New Street.Apparently we were singing some songs that he didn’t like.Im surprised he’s still alive to be honest,the older he gets the more embittered he becomes.
Granville is a sad twat. Reminds me of the story of the Architect whose work had been long defamed by one particular critic. They met finally at some award and the Critic introduced himself and said
‘i doubt you think well of me’
The great architect responded ‘ i don’t think of you at all’
I doubt Rafa gives a flying f*** for the likes of Granville and Fat arse.
Great piece by the way John. More thought went into that than anything written by the other two muppets.
Brilliant article. Very rare I comment but really enjoyed this. I was there in Istanbul and stood on the lop when Chelsea got their 7 minutes extra time.
Football is fickle and people forget what Rafa did for Liverpool. No 1 team in Europe during his time and some nice attacking football for a period.
IT TOOK MORE THAN A FINAL TO0 WIN THE CHAMPIONS LEAUGE GERRARD NEVER EVEN PLAYED IN A VITAL AWAY GAME. RAFA IS RESPONSIBLE FOR STIRLING ETC OTHERS TOOK THE CREDIT.
Rafa has his faults and limitations and we all know about them, but he has demonstrably achieved far more with both Valencia and Liverpool than Big Sam or this talentless hack ever will. He has forever written his name into the history of one of the greatest clubs in world football, while Big Sam will be a pub quiz question in another 10 years – “Name a Premier League manager who most resembles a hippopotamus that’s let itself go”. This excuse of a journo won’t even merit that. Enough said.
Agree completely. I was in Istanbul, felt the atmosphere and certainly agree Rafa was the hero of the night. I’d give Big Sam a job ‘though – cleaning Rafa’s boots.
Brilliant article Gibbo. But you forgot to mention Rafa fluking his way to 2 La Liga titles with Valencia. They must have been flukes as he didn’t even have Didi Hamann at the club. Also it’s not like there’s much competition in Spain for a club like Valencia. After all before Rafa turned up they had won the league as recently as 1971.
I think you’ll find the twats will say that Rafa’s Valencia days were all to do with Hector Cuper’s team just as Istanbul was really a win for Houllier
or something equally mad
Great article. Kopp has a Rafa feel about him in that I now believe we can win every game against better opponents. As opposing to hoping as I’ve been since 2010.
Genuine question, didn’t we play 3 at the back away to juve and xabi played in that game? Man my memory is failing me…
Couldn’t agree more. Fantastic manager, and a damn fine bloke too.
Also FA Cup, Coppa Italia, UEFA Manager of the Year – twice – and it only took him 6 months to win in Europe with Chelski, something even Maureen hasn’t managed there.
Mind you big Sam did get the happy hammers promoted. Via the play-offs. He’ll always have that…
Brian Glanville!!!! More surprised Gordon Lee’s twin is still alive. Trotted out garbage about Liverpool for years….Sam Allardyce???? Irrelevant, has nobody told him old scotch nose has retired???? So put the bloody United shirt away….Gerrard won us the final!!!! Obviously nobody else contributed apparently….check the games he missed along the way…..and the contribution of the Squad to get there in the first place……
Fucking bang on the money !
Stick ya podcast up your arses, this is what TAW should be about .
well done trumpet face.
I genuinely thought Glanville was dead. Glad he’s not as I can’t be accused of speaking ill etc. because he’s always been a gobshite. As of course is “Big Sam”.
It needed to be said John, so fair play.
Brilliant read that…those are the words Fat Sam will never hear so you’re already one up on him straight away John! Seriously, the guy is a full on twat. Anyway…
I absolutely love Rafa. Until Klopp arrived I would have had him back in a heartbeat. He’s not perfect but that man not only has Istanbul but he fucking fought for our club when the 2 cowboy bellends decided to play Russian Roulette with our future. And apart from various help and donations to the Hillsborough campaigns, he’s also laid roots in the area so the guy is rightly held in the highest regard. His facts rant may have backfired but I love him for taking Fergie on when every hack and Fat Sam were up his arse.
I absolutely love Rafa…he is kwaaaarlitee!
Thanks John. That says it all. Never ever can or could understand the anti-Rafa vitriol. Will never forget and will always be grateful for his genius and the way he kept us punching above our weight for so long. An unforgettable campaign, the history of which can never be rewritten by those too stupid to appreciate it.
Look at that. We beat them.
still scares me that team even now.
Love Rafa, love this article and I love you too Gibbo. No words can quantify what this man means to every one of us, for those days where he coaxed us out of the abyss and gave us wonder and hope. To me Rafa Benitez is a member of my family I have yet to meet and for all the hate and bile spewed towards him from insignificant souls such as Allardyce and Glanville, it is paled to whisps of wasted air by the warmth, respect and love that still remains for him in so many LFC fans. En Rafa En Confiamos!
Wow, I found that Glanville account unbelievably insulting. I can only imagine he is going senile in his old age by completely neglecting the point that we were playing, erm, AC Milan. Yeah you know, those obscure minnows from Italy. Not to mention that he brushed Leverkusen aside with ease in the last 16, beat an apparently unbeatable Capello and his Juventus side in the quarters, and an even more unbeatable club in Chelsea with their billions of pounds who, even despite moaning about a ‘ghost goal’, still couldn’t break down a Liverpool side in 180 minutes. Some fluke eh? Let’s just conveniently forget that eh Brian?
All that can be said for Brian Glanville is he’s a typically narrow minded Englishman of yesteryear; an archaic relic and one that has no place in the modern game. Ditto for Allardyce.
Outstanding article. Award-winning stuff!
Can we build a statue of Rafa?
Who do we need to speak to about that? There must be room now they’re knocking down half of L4 round the back of the stadium.
I really don’t think Rafa cares much for Brian Glanville /Big Sam or his many critics because if your Rafa I am sure you will just walk into a palatial room in a mansion and look at the Silver collected during the coaching days of the youth and reserve team at the worlds biggest and glamorous club (7) then (2 ) promotions with 2 second division clubs and then another (12 ) winners medal and another (7 )runners up medal in the last 12 seasons of top level football and I am only guessing you can only think ,.I am just a bit special at this coaching malarkey and just continue with the day job of being the coach at the club where it all started..the worlds biggest and most glamorous club and the very first time on equal financial resources so what can I achieve from here and how much ?
There are few things worse in football than the former LFC player who needs to use the media to vent his old bitterness, regrets, and/or resentments, or the manager who achieved little or nothing at other clubs and likewise uses the media to vent his spleen at Liverpool, where he could never hope to work.
And the opening paragraph of this article (in boldface) is one of the best things I’ve seen written on TAW. Thanks, John.
What a goal what a night!
What a night indeed.
Why give oxygen to these onanists? Big Sam Effing Allardyce on Rafa.
Thanks for taking a stand ! Rafa deserves better from colleagues in the profession. To be honest, their comments just smack of bitterness. Obviously, he fluked the job at Real Madrid and Big Sam should be there instead of Sunderland. Not.
In my eyes Rafa is still OUR manager. Klopp will BECOME our manager. Just having the title doesn’t make you a king. The only king the bloated oaf Allardyce can ever resemble had the surname Kong.
And as a bloke, Rafa Benitez is GOLD.
Mad how good that Milan side is when you list them out like that. That Ancelloti in the opposite dugout with those players at his disposal is no slouch either, although you could probably tell that from watching the first 45 (where what by rights, what should have happened did).
10 and a half years later of everyone wondering how we did it and this Glanville cunt has finally put everyone’s mind at rest. Thanks Brian!! Everyone make sure to say thanks to Brian!
Can’t add so much to the other comments John – that was stirring stuff and I enjoyed it immensely. Thank you.
Too many Liverpool fans apologise for everything Rafa has ever done in his career, when the unfortunate truth is he hasn’t always been that great since 2010. However, from 2001-2009, he was absolutely up there with – or above – any other manager in Europe. No one should ever forget it.
I hope you’ve sent a copy of this to Glanville’s email – you’ve torn that dinosaur to pieces.
Rafa Benitez: the Jeremy Corbyn of English football.
There’s an argument to be made, a valid one, that Rafa got his selection and formation totally wrong in the first half. But that argument negates the genius it took to get such an inadequate squad to the final in the first place. Compare our strikers to those of Milan: Milan Baros and Cisse v Hernan Crespo and primtime Shevchenko. Don’t even get me started on Djimi Traore v Paolo Maldini. That Rafa was able to recognise his mistake and reorganise the team in the heat of a CL final only adds to his achievement.
Great piece btw, John.
Oh you’ve got me daydreaming at my desk now…..I fancy some raki and a dance on a table with my Dad!
Thanks for the article John.
I remember making the same arguments defending the record of Rafa only a couple of years ago – depressingly to a fellow red.
I think this sums it up better than I can – http://www.sheffieldforum.co.uk/archive/index.php/t-49086.html. For those who can’t be arsed, the punchline from a son to a dad claiming Liverpool were lucky is …
”so let’s get this straight dad – Liverpool had 3 good teams in their group, they then knocked out a team who had beaten Real Madrid 3-0, they then knocked out the future Serie A champions, then knocked out the future Premiership champions, before coming back from 3-0 down to beat the 2nd most successful club in Europe.”
Sensational article. That this even needs to be said is mind-boggling, that this ridiculous, utterly specious ‘theory’ still needs debunking. Rafa’s record stands up against pretty much anyone’s in modern day football. Just look at the league standings and the trophy count. He’s a contrary, infuriating, brilliant man who is rightfully a cast-iron legend to Pool fans and should be to anyone else with a brain in their head at the other clubs where he has had success. Just because he’s not a clubbable oaf like ‘Big Sam’ shouldn’t be reason enough for the sloppy, unthinking likes of Glanville to have a pop. We know, Rafa knows, and no one else matters.
Brilliant article this John and exposes the lazy journalism of some. Sam (he’s not big…mafia bosses are “Big,” hes just got a balloon head,) should really have looked at facts (promise not taking piss) before trying to make such a bold statement. It doesn’t even take much research. Listen to the players, Carragher, Gerrard after the game taking about how Benitez raised them up. I can’t recall them saying “that was all down to us.” This statement is from a man who said that beating Blackpool in a play off final was his “best ever achievement,” (personally i feel it was nothing to do with him and was all down to Carlton Cole)
The idea that getting beat by Barcelona (Barcelona the best team in the world) is someway of proving that Sam Alladyce is right is just a joke. For one the games are over 10 years apart and just take a look at all the things Benitez did in that time. Trophies aside, the games he’s won, with different clubs, he took a Liverpool team to both the Nou Camp and Bernabeau and won. I’m assuming the UEFA Cup he won with Chelsea was all down to John Terry??
I’m not a fan of singing for those no longer at club without reason but i hope we batter Sunderland and sing Rafa’s name towards plain old Sam….no offence to Sunderland but your manager talks shite!
Nice one, John. It’s clearly absolutely ridiculous to suggest that Liverpool could have got to the final in Istanbul without Benitez, let alone won it. And, as you say, he did it again in 2007!
On a different point, does Allardyce’s autobiography really say “It was nowt do wti him?” Nowt? I realise that the book will have been penned by a ghostwriter, but how hilarious that it’s written with Big Sam’s good, old-fashioned, 4-4-2, football’s-a-man’s-game, when-I-were-a-lad accent.
He changed to three at the back even though the team hadn’t played that way all season. He put players in unfamiliar positions and, when they tired, he shifted them round. With the dice loaded he continued to roll them until he found a way >>>> sounds like a recent manager I can think of……
Just bloody excellent, Gibbo. Hope Rafa reads this statue of words (article and comments).
Glanville’s a neanderthal. I have a mate who writes for German sports magazine “Kicker”. Around the time of the Athens final in 2007 Glanville was asked to write a short piece of max. 4,000 characters which would be translated into German in-house and then published in the magazine. The piece was about LFC’s and Manu’s European Cup wins.
The article (I read the original copy he FAXED to my mate) started by saying Man Utd’s two (at the time) European Cup wins had far greater significance than LFC’s five. I didn’t even bother reading the article after the first paragraph becasue it was such bollocks.
The article he wrote was also 4,000 words and not characters and my mate said he would only be getting his money for 4,000 charactaers.
Furthemore when Glanville was asked if he had email to make correspendence much easier and more efficient he replied “No, I don’t have bloody email”.
I rest my case.
Would love to see that iconic Flag made into a stone or bronze tablet at a ridiculously large size 15m x 10m and built into the wall of the new main stand so the world will see that Liverpool fans worship their managers like the ancient greeks worshipped their gods in the friezes at the Parthenon. The importance given to historic victories by those immortal managers with Rafa Benitez very much part of that group that stuck two fingers up to the rest of world and said we Liverpool now go forth and multiply
Boss Banner. Legendary Manager.
Absolutely fabulous article and spot on. Fuck the haters! Thanks John
Fucking is right John
One of the most difficult things I have to live with til the day I die, is turning down tickets to Istanbul. Believe me, I had my reasons but it still hurts thinking about it.
Nice piece and spot on. Anyone who can’t recognize what Benitez managed to achieve with that team is an idiot. End of.
Great piece John, what those two idiots know about football laid bare for all to see (in it’s miniscule glory) . Obviously they never herd the adage that “History is written by the winners”.
It their case history is being re- written by losers. Still I take great pleasure in knowing that after all this time Rafa’s achivements still get under their skin!
Is right John :)
Rafa has Istanbul.
Thanks for all your kind words. Let’s build that statue
This is a brilliant bit of writing, and I’m now sorry it took me so long to get around to reading it. I hope someone puts it in front of that fat twat Alladyce. Clueless fucking dinosaur, as apparently and somewhat suprisingly is Glanville
Nice one John
Yes yes yes to the entire article. I do recall Houllier at the time trying to also claim credit because it was his squad. Not sonquickntonclaim credit for the league position though…
That might just be the best article posted this year. Brilliantly structured and well researched. Sometimes wonder how you boys keep just banging them out. Tip of the hat and nicely timed alongside the podcast win. Thoroughly enjoying my first year subscribing.
Long time admirer of TAW since the 2nd podcast. Good luck to you all who put all these hours in for a genuine quality read and listen.
“Maybe it doesn’t matter that some journalists rank football managers by who is nicest to them at press conferences and awards nights rather than trophies.”
“Rafa Benitez will always have Istanbul.”
The only thing bigger than the Myth of Sam Allardyce is his ego. The guy is a Class A prat whose done jack-all as a manager. For some unknown reason the British Press want him to be great, in fact, Merson was at it again this morning on Sky: “Sam Allardyce is a fantastic manager, different class and will do the job regardless.” Stop it… just… ridiculous that these things continue to be said about him.