"What do you mean you've hurt 'your' knee, it's Liverpool's knee" - Bill Shankly.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Liverpool's revolution under Rafael Benitez

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Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez's former assistant coach Paco Herrera revealed all about the revolutionary changes implemented by the Spaniard in his first five years at the Merseyside club.

By Emily Benammar
Last Updated: 12:55PM GMT 24 Mar 2009


Revolutionised: Rafael Benitez has transformed Liverpool since arriving in 2004 according to former assistant Paco Herrera Photo: PA

Benitez, who has just signed up until 2014, has transformed Liverpool into one of Europe's most threatening teams. In the last fortnight alone they have closed Manchester United's seven-point lead to one, knocked Real Madrid out of the Champions league and put five goals past Aston Villa.

Hererra, who left Anfield to take over at Castellon, describes his former boss as a man who "lives football 24 hours a day" and revealed to the Sun what Benitez has achieved since 2004.

Creating a database of over 10,000 world players:
"Benitez does not leave any room for improvisation and he himself supervises everything. It's true he has a database with information on more than 10,000 players. It was when we started to sign up all the scouts. We started incorporating people from one country or another [and] as time went on Rafa proposed to create a personal database. That's where every day all the scouts are putting information on all the players they are watching - I would say it would be closer to 14,000 players."

Building a video room and ensuring access to footage from 12 top leagues around the world:
"There are big satellite dishes and contracts with two or three companies that make sure every month the club get all the videos from every country."

Transforming the Melwood training ground:
"Everything was created little by little - most of the things were done in the first two years. In the second year we started building a hotel of about 20 rooms. It was completed before I left so the players could concentrate there - above all before Champions League games. The players rest there in the training centre and they don't go to any other hotel. Benitez also created small hills in the training ground for the players to do resistance running."

Revolutionising the player's lifestyles:
"Dietary habits were changed from the outset. In general terms in the teams where the management staff were English the diet was not very careful. St the start the entire training ground - restaurant areas, areas with refrigerators where you can get energy drinks - as soon as Rafa arrived he banned everything he thought might be bad for the players. From that day food was meticulously studied. Now breakfast and lunch is made with commonsense for the good of an athlete."

Paco Herrera on Rafael Benitez and Liverpool:
"Everything is very detailed and thought through. Rafa lives football 24 hours a day. He has faith in his coaching staff and we had a great team. What they [Liverpool] value is the personality of Rafa. Professionals are respected there and Rafa is hugely respected. Bill Shankly is a myth for them - he is everything. but I think Rafa, in those five years at least, will match what they consider Shankly to be."

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Quote of the moment

Defying belief however, is a market Benitez has cornered quite well. The moment you think Benitez is clueless, he defies it by pulling off a result of majesty, like the one achieved in Madrid. The moment he is hailed a genius, he masterminds toothless surrender to a team going nowhere. In the ongoing Anfield power struggle, just when he was cornered by the firing squad, the Spaniard's demise at Liverpool looking practically assured with the ominous suspension of betting by the bookmakers, he squeezes out through a narrow trapdoor and eliminates Rick Parry. Rafa Benitez is Keyzer Soze.
- Just Football blog: The Curious Beast that is Football 28 Feb 2009