Steven Gerrard believes he had a good understanding with all of his managers at Liverpool apart from Rafael Benitez – and was left embarrassed by the Spaniard’s facts rant “meltdown”.
The current Real Madrid head coach spent six years at Anfield, guiding the club to the 2005 UEFA Champions League title in his first season at the helm, when Liverpool rallied from 3-0 down to beat Milan on penalties in Istanbul.
Yet despite sharing that triumph, the former England international has suggested he had a mixed relationship with Benitez.
“I don’t think Rafa Benitez liked me as a person. I’m not sure why, but that’s the feeling I got from him,” Gerrard wrote in his book ‘My Story’, which is being serialised by The Daily Mail.
“I can pick up the phone and speak to all of my previous Liverpool managers. Except for Rafa.
“It’s a shame because we probably shared the biggest night of both our careers – the 2005 Champions League victory in Istanbul – and yet there is no bond between us.”
The LA Galaxy midfielder also revealed how Benitez only ever called him by his surname, while using nicknames for other players affected him.
“At press conferences he might call other players by their first name but I was always ‘Gerrard’. It was the same in the dressing room. He would read out the team and use nicknames. But, for me, it would just be ‘Gerrard’,” he added.
“Our working relationship was ultra-professional and his frostiness drove me to become a better player. I had a hunger to earn a compliment from him – but also a hunger to let him know he really needed me as a player.”
Recalling the infamous press conference from 2009 when Benitez launched an attack on then-Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson as the sides battled for the Premier League title, claiming the Scot received preferential treatment from the Football Association, Gerrard outlined his awkwardness at the episode.
Liverpool were top at the time, but finished second behind United.
“One time he did suffer a meltdown involving Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson,” the former Liverpool captain wrote.
“I went home from training that Friday lunchtime and switched on the TV. Rafa sat down with his usual half-smile. It looked likely to be a normal press conference, but then he reached into his pocket for a piece of paper.
“He spread it out on the table and began to read out one ‘fact’ after another. Rafa kept saying ‘fact… fact… fact…’ and I could not believe what I was hearing. I was grabbing the couch, digging my fingers into the arms, feeling embarrassed for him. It seemed so unlike Rafa to talk in such an emotional way. You could see the anger in him.
“Rafa was sounding muddled and bitter and paranoid. He was humiliating himself. It was a disaster.”