Rafa targets Liverpool return

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© Trinity Mirror

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez says he would one day like to return to the club.

Speaking candidly to a sell-out crowd at the Empire Theatre, Benitez said: “I will wait three, five or ten years. I want to manage Liverpool again… when Kenny retires.”

In a ‘This is Your Life’ style interview with Radio City’s Steve Hothersall, Benitez opened up on his time at Liverpool. From his infamous rant aimed at Sir Alex Ferguson, to his support for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Benitez had the audience enthralled.

The Spaniard also gave the crowd a tactical masterclass on the club’s historic Champions League victory in 2005, and defended his use of the zonal marking system.

The evening began with Benitez speaking about his personal career in football and how his managerial education began in his late 20s, where he worked closely with current Spain manager and World Cup winner Vicente Del Bosque.

A colourful description of his successes with Valencia followed, before finally revealing how he turned down an unnamed Premier League club to take charge of Liverpool in 2004.

But one of the biggest cheers of the night came when Benitez spoke of his struggle with the former American owners of the club, Tom Hicks and George Gillet, during his time in charge.

He praised the ‘Spirit of Shankly’ supporters group for helping to bring about the change in Liverpool’s ownership.

He joked: “You can tell these new owners are smart; one of the first things they did was to get rid of [former LFC Managing Director] Christian Purslow.”

The focal point of the evening was, of course that famous night in Istanbul, with Benitez exclusively sharing his personal notes that he jotted down at half time during the epic encounter with AC Milan. He then went on to show the audience how his tactical prowess brought the Reds level in the second half of the game, to rapturous applause from the packed crowd.

Always speaking fondly of his time at Liverpool, Benitez gave his support to the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and backed the release of the relevant government documents surrounding the tragedy.

The former Inter Milan manager showed his humorous side on several occasions too, most memorably talking about how his struggle with the learning of the English language led to him telling Djimi Traore to simply “get in the shower” at half-time in the Champions League final.

A thoroughly entertaining evening culminated with Benitez, who still lives on the Wirral, revealing that he has had many offers from around the world to manage various clubs, but vowed to stay in England, waiting for a job in the Premier League.

All of the night’s proceeds will be donated to the Montse Benitez Foundation, which is run by his wife and supports many of Merseyside’s charities.

The man who made Liverpool kings of Europe once again still holds a firm place within the hearts of Liverpool fans. A standing ovation and chants of his name reverberated through the halls of the Empire at the close of the performance.

A dream of a return to the Anfield hot seat was certainly echoed by those in attendance, but few will be hoping that King Kenny steps down for a good while yet.

About David Downie, JMU Journalism