By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
Jamie Carragher has revealed that he did not get a “well done” from Rafael Benitez during the entire six years he was managed by the Spaniard.
The Liverpool legend praised Benitez’s ability to prepare teams for big, one-off matches but said the Spaniard’s man-management was “lacking”.
Writing in his Mail Online column ahead of Benitez’s first El Clasico clash as Real Madrid manager on Saturday evening, Carragher gave some insight into the 55-year-old’s methods.
“Benitez is a manager who is never totally happy or satisfied with anyone’s performance,” explained Carragher. “Even on the best days, you know he always wants something more. I played for him for six years and never got a ‘well done’ from him once.
“So the fact he could not say [Cristiano] Ronaldo was the best player he had ever worked with, when asked that question back in September, made me laugh — why not just say he is? — and brought to mind a story after we beat West Ham in the 2006 FA Cup final.
“It became known as the ‘Steven Gerrard final’ after he scored two goals — one of which was the best I’ve ever seen during a game — produced an assist and converted a penalty in the shootout yet Rafa said Momo Sissoko, our central midfielder, had been the best player!”
Carragher won the Champions League under Benitez in 2005, as well as the FA Cup the following year, and played the best football of his career during the Spaniard’s Anfield tenure, from 2004-2010.
The Liverpool legend is confident that Real will be so well drilled by Benitez for Saturday’s clash at the Bernabeu against bitter rivals Barcelona that he expects the home team to at least secure a draw.
“If his man-management is lacking, you cannot fault how he sets up a team in big, one-off games and it is why, having lost to Sevilla last week, I would be amazed if he suffers another defeat on Saturday evening,” added Carragher.
“Having been criticised for being too defensive and not killing teams off, that is exactly what Madrid need to be in the Bernabeu and that is what Benitez will make them. He will have spent the international break looking to exploit Barcelona’s weaknesses and hatching a game plan.
“Barcelona force every team to be counter-attacking but in Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, he has the perfect weapons to make the plan a success. Neymar and Luis Suarez have been in sensational form and Lionel Messi could come off the bench but Rafa will have been working on a way to nullify them.
“So no matter what has happened this week, regardless of the fallout after losing in Seville, I honestly don’t see Real Madrid losing this match. Benitez always responds in the moments of adversity. He is never better than when he has been backed into a corner.”