The first time I saw Rafa Benítez in person was during an informal chat immediately after a game with a few fans of a group I was running at the time. The truth is none of the organisers of that meeting would have bet a penny that the coach would actually turn up. And not because, according to football practice, a person of his standing (he had been for some time one of the best coaches in the world) is usually inaccessible to the general public. No. He would have nothing to do with elitism. It was because he was known for never taking a break from work. And of course, straight after the match, it was understood that the first thing someone like him would do is go over the notes he had made during the 90 minutes, and the last thing he would do was to meet a group of over-enthusiastic interlopers. Therefore it was a surprise to see him appear at the agreed place and time.
Astonished by this, there was nobody who thought that the meeting would last longer than 5 minutes. A mere formality (a doctor’s visit as my mum would say). A few photos and autographs and another job done. That is the norm in these situations. Besides it would be more than enough. Much more than expected. So at that point in proceedings people were more than satisfied. But with a guy who sorted out a mess one night in May in Istanbul (yes, he of the comeback against Milan in a Champions League Final lost from the first whistle), I suppose that things are never as you would expect. It began to dawn on us. Second surprise of the night. As if he was one of us, the only thing on his mind being to pass the time exchanging views on what had happened on the pitch, our hero began to socialize amiably with each and every one of those present without paying any attention to the time.
It was all becoming interesting but it was to get even better. Not that I am experienced in dealing with professional football people but what I am sure of is that it was not difficult to imagine the conversations between the sports daily newspaper men and those who move these circles. A cluster of platitudes and cliches or, what amounts to the same thing, an unfulfilling chat which will not be remembered by either party. Or maybe by one of them, but it wouldn’t be much of a memory, only a vague one. Third surprise - to be introduced to the Boss and for him to start telling interesting stories was another one. From the story of a young Rafa, still in the process of learning, who gained the confidence of a group of disruptive students when they discovered that they had a lot in common with him (and note that we are talking about chocolate horns on sale in grocery stores) then followed by his refusal to abandon this story out of loyalty to those he was addressing (note this as well, with his mobile in his hand showing the record of incoming calls proving that indeed an offer had been made by another club) and finishing with meanderings through various neighbourhoods of Madrid. Unforgettable .
Since that night, I have not had the chance to speak to the coach in similar circumstances. That’s a pity. Because it was a pleasure. That’s true, and I always say the same thing when I am in other forums talking about Rafa: be careful if you are in a private conversation with him some time, he will surprise you, at least 3 times.
Thanks Rafa. YNWA
He always deflects and downplays any praise and is a very humble person.
The most recent time was in Eurosport when Arsene Wenger said he was an expensive man and he immediately said "not too expensive".
He has done it many times and i remember a journalist who called him "The real special one" and Rafa said to never call him the special one.
But like it or not, you are special.
I remember Mourin*o saying he was embarassed at his salary when there was a financial crisis but actions speak louder than lip service, he later moved to Madrid for another bumper pay packet.
Rafa donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to charities and did not want any attention and we would not have known about many things if the beneficiaries themselves did not stand up and tell us all. These are honourable actions.
It's a disgrace on the media that he does not get the recognition he deserves whereas other people who always claim the fame and place the blame are given maximum attention and applause.
This is also why no matter how hard the media try to vilify him, there is always an army of people who will defend his name and those who can see how good a person he is will never say otherwise.
This is why the website had around 3/4's of a million impressions when it was launched.
He is a legend and many supporters of LFC know it, love him for it and can't wait for him to return one day....fingers crossed!
Its amazing how one man can change your life, I was around 15 when he became Liverpool manager, and straight away I loved him. I then decided I wanted to become a football manager, Rafa shaped my future. 7 years on my dream is still there, progressing up the ladder, however I have one person to thank, that person is the Special One (Mr Rafa Benitez) a legend in my eyes, the one who changed my life, the one who I look upto, the one I admire.
I try and copy his blueprint. A real legend
Thank you Rafa
His knowledge of the game, relationship with the fans is truly unique. I look forward to seeing the next teams Rafa puts out, hoping one day he will return home.
It is an honour to have been a Liverpool fan under him and I cherish the opportunities to get to know him, at all time.