Ex-Liverpool man: ‘Coward’ Benitez had ‘horrendous’ people skills summed up by Istanbul ‘disgrace’

Jason Soutar
Ex-Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock reveals he hated Rafa Benitez
Stephen Warnock reveals he hated ex-Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez

Former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock has revealed how ex-Reds manager Rafa Benitez killed his Champions League final dream in 2005.

Benitez guided Liverpool to Champions League glory 19 years ago, completing the comeback of all comebacks in the final against AC Milan.

One Reds player and fan’s memories of that night in Istanbul are not positive, though.

Warnock was in the first-team squad for the 2004/05 campaign but missed out on the squad for the final, which meant he did not receive a whopping £200,000 bonus.

While not receiving the bonus was a bitter pill to swallow, not being in the squad for the final (and party of course) was devastating.

What makes matters worse is the manner of Warnock’s omission.

Former Liverpool player slams ‘f**king coward’ Rafa Benitez

The former left-back has revealed that he found out he was in the 18-man squad only for Benitez’s assistant to ring him up and tell him there was a “mistake on the squad”.

“His man management is horrendous. I’ve said this to loads of people – his tactics are brilliant, but his man management is zero,” Warnock told the Undr The Cosh podcast.

“He has no idea how to speak to anyone or talk to anyone. It was summed up by Istanbul. Istanbul was an absolute disgrace with how he treated me and a few of the lads. He just didn’t care.

“It was two weeks after the season that the Champions League final was on, we were in [training] for those two weeks.

“Two days before we were going over to travel to Istanbul and I remember the last training session, every time a squad list of 18 would go up, it would be the first XI and the subs. There was no added two or three players to travel.

“I remember running in after the last training session thinking ‘Please be in’. I looked on the squad list and my name was there.

“I was like ‘F***ing hell, it’s the Champions League final. I’m either on the bench or playing’. I showered as quick as I could, got my phone and rang my family and said ‘listen, get the plane tickets to Istanbul’.

“I’m at home packing to get ready and my phone goes and it was Paco Ayestaran, who was the number two at the time to Rafa.

“He goes ‘We’ve made a mistake on the squad, you’re not in it’. I was like ‘What!?’ [Benitez] didn’t even have the b******s to ring me. I was like ‘You f***ing coward’. I was fuming.

“The team travelled, played the game, and after he comes up to me and says ‘I’ll speak to you next week’. He didn’t apologise.”

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Warnock then spilled the beans on the bonus he would have received had he travelled to Istanbul.

He said: “I remember thinking at the time – it shouldn’t come into it, but it did – it was one of the biggest games of football’s year, but our bonus was massive either way.

“It was £100,000 to lose it and £200,000 to win it. And I was thinking, ‘F***ing hell, that’s a massive amount of money.’ Because I wasn’t on much money at the time. [That’s for] whoever’s in the [matchday] 18, it doesn’t go pro rata across the squad. Literally, if you’re in the 18, you get it.

“I’ve come from thinking last year I’m going to be playing in the Championship with Coventry, being on decent-ish money, but nowhere near that.”

Warnock added: “Gerrard came up to me after the game and said ‘It’s s*** what happened, we’ll make sure you get your money’. I’ve still not seen it – why say it?”

The ex-left-back said he wanted to leave the club after the debacle, despite growing up a Liverpool fan.

“It was hard for me because I’m a Liverpool fan and grew up standing on the Kop and I was thinking ‘I hate this team’. I was fuming,” he added.

“It’s not like I hated the team, I hated Rafa. I was sat there so happy for the lads, but also p***** off.

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“I remember that night they said the plane leaves at this time to go to the parade in Liverpool, then they changed it and said all the squad involved, and their wives and girlfriends, were on it.

“We missed the parade and I watched it on Sky Sports. We missed it because our flight was late coming in.

“The squad literally landed at Liverpool airport, got ferried to the buses and started the parade.

“I just remember thinking ‘what a s***show’. I was gone, I’d decided I was leaving.”

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