Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Rodgers cool as Benitez touts for Liverpool job

Brendan Rodgers (pictured) has no intention of letting Rafael Benitez return to Liverpool
Brendan Rodgers (pictured) has no intention of letting Rafael Benitez return to Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers played more hurling than cricket as a kid growing up in Carnlough but having to deal with a hostile delivery from Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager smashed it out of the park.

Ahead of the Ulsterman's press conference on Wednesday, former Anfield boss and current interim Chelsea manager Benitez had stated in a Spanish newspaper that he WILL return to take charge of Liverpool in the future.

Talk about adding pressure to the present incumbent.

Benitez, who famously led Liverpool to a Champions League triumph in 2005, certainly didn't adhere to that unwritten managerial code that you don't talk about becoming boss at another club when someone is already in the hotseat.

"My idea is to keep coaching a competitive team. Why not in England?" Benitez told Marca.

"I will return to Liverpool one day almost certainly, I just don't know when. My daughters and wife are still living there."

The comments will make him even less popular with Chelsea fans, and you didn't think that possible, and won't have gone down well with Rodgers either even though the current Liverpool boss handled the issue just about as well as he could have done.

While building for a bright future since taking over from Kenny Dalglish last summer, Rodgers has also immersed himself in the history of the club and will know all too well that Benitez remains popular with many Reds supporters, primarily due to that glorious night in Istanbul against AC Milan.

He'll also be aware when Dalglish was sacked, more Liverpool fans would have preferred a reunion with Benitez than for Rodgers to arrive from Swansea on a three year deal.

Since then the style of play under Rodgers, combined with his methods on the training pitch and man management skills have earned high praise from his players.

They want to perform for him, as illustrated by Lucas Leiva's decision to sign a new long term contract yesterday.

There have been disappointments this season but there is clear promise of better times ahead which has led to the County Antrim man winning over most of the Kop, who along with the club decision makers appear willing to give him time.

Reacting to Benitez's comments, Rodgers stated that American owners Fenway Sports Group had the chance to appoint the Spaniard in the summer but opted to recruit him instead.

Former managers and past deeds have intimidated too many bosses at Anfield in modern times. Rodgers is clearly not one of them even with Benitez on the market at the end of the season when he leaves Stamford Bridge.

Rodgers staying cool made his point stating: "Rafa had a successful time in the period he was here and I think he will join a list of probably many managers throughout the world who would love to manage a great club – especially having been here before.

"Obviously that opportunity was there in the summer if the owners wanted to go down that route as Rafa was unemployed and not working.

"But they felt it best to go in a different direction and develop the club in a different way.

"And from that the board, players, myself and the club have all become one in looking to move forward and build success for the future.

"It is understandable any manager wanting to manage the club because it is truly a world-class football club.

"It is not a hindrance to me. Before I came here I had seen comments about Rafa wanting to be manager and I've seen comments while I've been here.

"But it doesn't affect me in my work or my job. My relationship is very strong with the players, we work very closely together on improving our football.

"We are very stable in terms of our board and the manager connection and we have some of the best fans in the world.

"It is a pleasure for me to be here at a truly remarkable club that many managers would want to manage, not just Rafael Benitez."

Liverpool host Chelsea on April 21. That game will be more eagerly awaited now.

Rodgers was once a coach at Chelsea and he returns to another of his old clubs, Reading, on Saturday for a Premier League match which could see the Merseysiders send their struggling opponents closer to the Championship.

There will be a minute's silence before the game to remember the 96 victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

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