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Rafa Benitez by Paco Lloret

Release date: 03rd May, 2007
Publisher: Dewi Lewis Media

List Price: £12.99
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Anyone who watched Rafa Benitez being interviewed immediately after his Liverpool side had knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League on Tuesday night will know that he is a man who can contain his emotions, although after such a wonderful performance, it was clearly difficult for him to do so.

Yet despite his obvious restraint in front of the television cameras, Benitez can be a vociferous on-screen critic as this compact biography reveals. This is particularly evident from extracts of interviews given during his time in charge of Valencia, the side whom he led to the Spanish league title. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems astonishing that Valencia were reluctant to extend Benitez's contract after he had delivered so much success, although when Lloret describes the extent of the financial intrigue surrounding the club at the time Benitez was looking to put down even deeper roots on Spain's east coast, perhaps it was to be expected.

Certainly Valencia's directors would have known that their manager had several suitors, among them Tottenham and Roma, although the best offer, financially-speaking, which Benitez received before opting for Merseyside actually came from Turkey.

Published in Spain last year and translated by Malcolm Marsh, the book's layout makes it an easy read, ideal for a journey, and, not surprisingly, for readers interested in Spanish football.
In truth, however, Lloret reveals little of Benitez's personality, but as a close friend, he manages to tell the reader much of what has shaped the man's career.

From the studious child and promising footballer, his burgeoning career cut short by a serious injury, to the time he spent at medical college before deciding to concentrate full time on football. Interesting too is Benitez's analysis of other sports, particularly basketball, and the game's 'vibrant' tactics: "These were then applied in games, with passwords given to them so they could beƖused at any given moment. Everything was rehearsed [with] a solution for every eventuality," says Lloret, an assessment which would have a certain resonance among Liverpool fans.

These influences, coupled with his apprenticeship at Real Madrid and several of Spain's smaller clubs, ensured that when Valencia's board stalled with their offer of a new contract in the spring of 2004, Benitez made up his mind to seek pastures new. And because Benitez is, as Lloret proclaims, "unstintingly dedicated to his profession, a lover of football who has made his vocation the driving force of his whole life," he was suddenly a man in demand.

Much of this book is given over to Benitez's time at Valencia (Lloret admits to being a big fan), hardly surprising given the amount of success he enjoyed there, but the final section concentrates upon how he has settled at Liverpool and that club's amazing run to European glory on May 2005.
Within this section, the author's extensive knowledge of football ensures he captures the unique Anfield atmosphere, generally only savoured on European nights, while his description of the matches against Olympiakos, Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea revels in the passion of the red-and-white-clad fans.

The Champions League final receives a suitably grand build-up, an occasion which, for any other manager, would represent the pinnacle of his career. For Benitez, victory in Istanbul endeared him to millions of Liverpool supporters, but much remains to be done. What Lloret shows is that Benitez, through hard work and application, will eventually get things right at Anfield and a second Champions League final appearance in three seasons suggests he is on track to succeed.


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