Rafael Benitez will always occupy a special place in the hearts of Liverpool supporters after his six years as the Reds’ manager.
The Spanish coach was, of course, the manager responsible for delivering the club’s fifth European Cup in 2005. He also led the Merseyside outfit to FA Cup glory in 2006.
Benitez came close to ending Liverpool’s long wait for the Premier League title but, like many before and after him, was ultimately unsuccessful.
He left the Reds in 2010 but has always been welcomed back with open arms every time he’s returned to Anfield since.
Any manager who helps Liverpool win the Champions League will never need to buy another drink in the city again.
Benitez came close to winning two European Cups with the Reds but was powerless to prevent his side losing to AC Milan in the 2007 Champions League final.
Jermaine Pennant started in that match - and the controversial winger, who was recently plying his trade for non-league Billericay Town, has revealed all about what it was like playing under Benitez.
Pennant: Why Rafa was a nightmare
The 35-year-old has not held back, it’s fair to say. Rarely do you hear a player speak quite so openly about what they didn’t like playing under a certain coach.
"On the pitch, often I can see what’s best. Ultimately you have to trust the players once they cross the white line. But with Rafa, it was constant directions,” Pennant writes in his new book Mental: Bad Behaviour, Ugly Truths and the Beautiful Game, per the Mirror.
"Just sometimes, he might as well have turned a player into an Xbox, dressed me up like RoboCop and put a picture of my face on it. I’m not a defensive midfielder. I’m not James Milner, who keeps it simple. I’m a flair player and do my own thing. But his constant instructions really restricted me. They stopped me from being free. He could never let me do my thing.
"When you have so many instructions, it makes it so difficult. You’ve got some instructions and tactics in your mind and yet he’s shouting even more at you. All of a sudden you’re confused. You’ve got two sets of instructions in your mind and you’re left wondering what to do. It means that, suddenly, you mess up with a simple pass because your mind is all over the place.
"Honestly, Rafa was a nightmare like that."
'I would just lose it and shout 'For f**** sake'
Pennant goes on to explain that he also found training a monotonous chore under Benitez.
"There were times when I would get so angry about how boring and repetitive training was that I would just lose it and shout, ‘For f***’s sake – just give us a bit of a five-a-side!’” he continues.
"As a player, you just want a bit of fun, to make training good and lively. But, with Rafa, the training was so boring that you’d come in and all you’d want to do was slit your wrists! The amount of time in training that we’d do shape, tactics and nothing else!"
Pennant also feels that things started to go downhill at Liverpool once Pako Ayestarán left the club, because Benitez’s man-management skills were so poor.
"With Rafa, it is all about himself,” Pennant adds. “It was either his way or no way. The man management was down to his staff. That was why, when Pako Ayestarán (his assistant) went, they had a parting of the ways and things started to go downhill a bit."
You can’t accuse Pennant of holding anything back. At least he says how he really feels.
No doubt his brutally honest new book will make for fascinating reading - although some of his former managers and teammates might be better off avoiding it.
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