Gerrard about Rafa Benítez: "He helped us individually but he was also massive for the team. He was a top manager".
In an interview in the latest edition of the official UEFA Champions League magazine, Gerrard insists the pair now have “the perfect relationship.” He says: “Rafa is obsessed with football 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“You have to take your hat off to him. He’s one of the best managers there is. “Rafa is the type that when you finish a game as man of the match having scored three goals, he won’t even mention it. Instead, he’ll mention that you never used your left foot at a certain point! “But Rafa does it right. When I need a pat on the back I get it. “I have had lots of ‘well dones’ from him, but when I need a kick up the backside I get it too. “He can also make me laugh, but you don’t see that side of him — or me — from the outside. “We spend a lot of time together on the training ground, travelling to matches and he joins in. We’ve got a great team spirit here and my relationship with him is perfect at the moment.”
After Gerrard scored his 100th Liverpool goal in the 3-1 Champions League victory over PSV Eindhoven in October, Benitez described his captain as “the best midfielder in the world.”
Gerrard in his book: My Autobiography Henry Winter
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has hailed Rafa Benitez as an "outstanding" manager, lauding the Spaniard's "clever" handling of Jose Mourinho's mind games and his "tactical masterstrokes" against Chelsea and Barcelona in Europe.
One of the performances of last season came at the Nou Camp on Feb 21, 2007, when Liverpool tore into the then European champions. "Rafa's game plan was to shock Barcelona," Gerrard writes in the paperback update of his autobiography out next week. "Barcelona felt Liverpool would be really negative. Rafa did the opposite."
Benitez's command to his players was simple: "Go for the jugular." The Liverpool manager ordered his team to attack Barcelona down the flanks, and use Bellamy's pace to embarrass the hosts' centre-backs, Carles Puyol and Rafael Marquez. Bellamy and Riise both scored in a famous victory.
Gerrard claims that the media fuss over Bellamy's spat with Riise "fuelled our motivation" to excel in the Nou Camp. Barcelona were greeted with "another tactical masterstroke from Rafa" as Liverpool sat deep, stifling Ronaldinho and company. Eidur Gudjohnsen scored late on, but little was seen of Barcelona's vaunted attacking strength.
Liverpool's semi-final with Chelsea was preceded by a rare outburst from Benitez, attacking Mourinho's presumption that he was the 'Special One'. "Straight in. Bang. Take that, Jose. He went to town on Jose. By stating that Liverpool's fans were the real Special Ones, Rafa was being really clever."
The Kop was at its fervent best when Mourinho's men visited. "Chelsea walked into a wall of noise," Gerrard adds. "And a classic sting." Benitez had worked his players on a special free-kick routine, and when Gerrard cut a free-kick back to Daniel Agger, Chelsea were caught out.
"Rafa had really done his homework on Chelsea," Gerrard writes. "While watching tapes of them, we noticed that when defending set-pieces in wide areas, they backed off. If you piled a lot of bodies into the box, distracting John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Essien, the pull-back was on. The manager drills us on dead-ball situations, day in, day out."
Agger's goal, and subsequent penalties, took Liverpool to the European Cup final against AC Milan. "Rafa came up with the right game-plan in Athens," recalls Gerrard, citing the manager's decision to swamp Milan's midfield with a 4-5-1 formation.