Manuel Mosquera

Manuel Alfredo Mosquera Bastida.
Manuel Mosquera.

CF Extremadura Seasons 1997-1999

"The first time I heard the name Rafa Benitez was when someone told me that Real Valladolid may be interested in my services. At that time, the 1995/96 season, he was their coach and they were talking up his way of working with the younger age groups at Real Madrid whom he was about to leave. Then, as used to happen a lot, the supposed interest came to nothing and I signed for Campostela. I had almost forgotten all this when, around Christmas 1997, Pedro Nieto, then president of CF Extremadura, got in touch for me to go back to Almendralejo and this time I did work under Rafa Benitez. I never doubted him, I knew that Rafa’s decisions were considered and that if he saw qualities in me that would be a part of the work plan, I had to take advantage of it. Besides, I had heard so much about him and his methods, I did not want to miss the chance of having him as my coach. Upon arrival, my suspicions were confirmed. One Thursday I arrived in Almendralejo and that weekend I started against Xerez. What surprised me most about Rafa was his exceptional capacity to analyse, demonstrated above all in pre-match team talks. He explained everything in very simple terms leaving nothing to chance. Everything was thought through, measured and calculated. Departure time for the match, what was expected of each individual, of each section of the team and from the whole team. He is demanding to the maximum of himself and of everyone else, he never rested. Here is an anecdote as an example of what I am talking about. When our 2 families bumped in to each other, Almendralejo is not a big city and this happened a lot, he saw my daughter, Carla, playing, he watched her for a few minutes and shouted over to me: ’Manu, that girl has excellent co-ordination!’. See, he never stops.
To talk about Rafa is to talk about a well-educated person, almost shy when outside of the football world. We used to talk a lot about English football, because I knew he had a passion for the Premier League, and even when we were promoted he used to ask me about little-known players who might be good for the team...
It is difficult to summarise in a few lines the experiences I had with this football great, and also with him outside the football world. But I will end with something I valued a lot after he left Extremadura, after we finished working together and seeing each other... We had not met since until 2 years ago when I was invited by Rafa, with some other coaches, to go to Liverpool where he was the Manager of the ‘Reds’. When we met again after so many years, he started talking to me as if we had last talked only the night before. And while he was explaining what was happening at Liverpool FC, about the training ground, it was like he was asking me for the millionth time to press the opposing midfielders to regain the ball. He was no longer the Extremadura coach, he was the two times winner of the league title with Valencia, UEFA Cup winner with the same club, Champions League winner with Liverpool and countless other achievements. But it was the same Rafa, approachable and affectionate, that I knew at Almendralejo".