Former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is itching for a return to the Premier League. Here’s the Spaniard talking about his time at Anfield and his views on Lucas, Dirk Kuyt, Pepe Reina and Fernando Torres…
Are you ready to return to management now and if so where would you like to manage?
I am trying to be ready, I am watching as many games as I can but in a different way as you are not under pressure and you do not need to prepare for the next game. I am still analysing games at the moment. If I have good offers abroad it would be ok but my priority is to return to the Premier League.
What is it about managing in England that you love so much?
I think that the people have more respect and are more patient. You can build and prepare a team and work better with younger players. You have more time overall. In Italy or Spain you have one or two weeks and everything can change.
Lucas Leiva is a player that you supported throughout your time at Anfield when perhaps some people didn’t necessarily appreciate him. How pleased have you been about his progress this season?
I was defending Lucas from the beginning. He played a lot of games and the people in the stadium could see that he was working very hard and improving every day. The more mature a player he becomes the better he will become. I am so pleased for him because he is not only a fantastic player but a nice lad.
Dirk Kuyt is another unsung hero for Liverpool and perhaps appreciated most when he was out injured at the World Cup. What impresses you most about him?
His commitment is great and he has such positive approach to everything whether it is professionally or with his personal life. He is a really nice lad and a fantastic player too.
Pepe Reina is a world class goalkeeper and there is speculation of a move for him away from Liverpool. How important do you think it is that they keep hold of him?
When any team has a good player it is important to keep them. Pepe is one of the key players for Liverpool so if he stays it will be a massive boost for Liverpool.
You took Liverpool to second place in the Premier League. The closest they have come to winning the title for two decades. Despite off field financial ownership problems, do you think you get enough credit for that achievement?
That will be a question of time. When you can look back and analyse the history of the past managers, then we will realise how difficult the task was that I achieved. Maybe in a few years.
Fernando Torres said he was disappointed that the previous owners didn’t commit enough resources to improve the squad. Do you agree with that assessment?
I think all the players and staff knew what was going on who were here at this time. It was a difficult time and we had to manage the situation. Had it not been for the situation we could have achieved even better things but I think we managed to achieve good things given the situation. Only time will tell whether Fernando was right or not to say those things.
Fernando Torres scored 9 goals in 7 games under your management last season even though it wasn’t his best season. How did you manage to get the best out of him?
Fernando is a good professional and although he had some injuries he was learning the English style. He was scoring a lot of goals at the beginning and at the end. He has a good mentality, he has good quality and his relationship with me was good also because we could talk in Spanish. When we needed to say something in Spanish we could say it clearly and we were not hiding anything.
How close is the current Liverpool team to competing for the Premier League title?
This is more a question for Kenny Dalglish and not for me. I think they have a good team but it is more about having a good squad when you are looking at the league.