Behind the scenes

Benítez’s tale of two finals

No matter how meticulous the planning, sometimes things are just beyond your control, as then Liverpool coach Rafa Benítez reveals to Graham Hunter in conversation about the 2005 and 2007 Champions League finals.

Of all the 63 Champions League and European Cup Finals thus far, few have had as much written about them, discussed or analysed as much as Istanbul in 2005.

Fifteen years on there remains a fascination for how random, quixotic, and logic-defying football can be – epitomised not only by Liverpool overturning a 3-0 deficit against AC Milan then holding on for penalties at 3-3. And by the inexplicable way in which the world’s greatest striker at the time, Andriy Shevchenko, somehow didn’t score from about three metres out with very little time before the final whistle.

Two facts add piquancy to an already spicy affair. Rafa Benítez can rightfully claim the title of the world’s most detail-obsessed, best-prepared, “controlling" football coach. So how did he come to win the most anarchic final of them all, where victory was scrambled, not yielded to planning? The second is that when the two clubs met in the final again two years later, there were also strange circumstances which, frankly, are as about as unknown as they are odd.

It’s often forgotten that Benítez was still in his first season at Liverpool, his first coaching abroad, when he masterminded the Champions League win. Things, including the English language, and its Scouse variant, were both new and coming at him thick and fast. During the season he worked such long hours that he’d sometimes find himself forgetting on which side of the road to drive in England, compared to Spain.

“I went out to dinner [one night] with my wife because it was her birthday and our anniversary. We left around eleven o’clock, it wasn’t late and I don’t drink alcohol. I was a little distracted and I went into the opposite lane and I drove over a speed bump. But they’re all natural instincts, suddenly you’re there and you realise you’re on the wrong side. Even when you cross the road you have to look both ways just incase!”

Cultural change. Just think about how tough it was, 3-0 down, at half-time in Istanbul, with complete uncertainty about whether Djimi Traoré or Steve Finnan was actually coming off. Think how easy it would have been for the under-pressure Spaniard to make a hash of the most pressurised, vital ten minutes of communication in his entire life. In a foreign language.

Rafa Benítez issues instructions from the touchline

He uses an anecdote to explain the vagaries of linguistics: “I recall one windy day at Melwood, our training ground, and we were doing set-pieces. Stevie Gerrard was shooting at goal and it was too windy. I said, ‘Be careful with the wined’ and they started to laugh, so I was like, ‘What’s going on?’

“Instead of saying ‘the wind’, it came out as: ‘Be careful with the wine.’ So everyone laughed. People usually don’t get how important those details are. When you have to give a speech, at half-time, you have to keep the intense mood and their attention and also tell the players what to do. As soon as you mispronounce a word or say something that doesn’t quite sound right, you lose their focus. I had to learn on the go. That’s why I always let people know how hard it is to give a speech at half-time in any game, but especially when you’re losing.”

But, of course, Benítez and his band of brothers were sufficiently co-ordinated, clever and characterful to eventually scale football’s Mount Everest and defeat AC Milan. Time to celebrate. But not without further, potentially horribly unfair, confusion. Amidst the unbridled joy as he hoisted Cup with the Big Ears skywards, word was forwarded to Benítez that someone close to him was, unfortunately, stuck outside the stadium main door and unable to join the party.
“Lifting the cup you don’t even notice what it weighs. Even if it was a hundred kilos, you’d pick it up anyway. That’s the easy part. Once you reached that euphoria, as you say, that satisfaction and happiness, you enjoy the moment and see everything around you, all the red with so many people with so much passion. At that moment you could look for friends or family but you won’t find them because everything is red and you can’t see anybody. "Then they shoot the confetti and it turns into a party. But while that party was going on, I was called and told: ‘Hey, there’s a friend of yours outside who isn’t being let in.’

“So, I go out the stadium and look for him but after I find him and we try to go back inside I discovered I didn’t have my credentials and the security guard wouldn’t let me back in! So, my friend says: ‘Do you know who this gentleman is?’ and the guard says, ‘No.’

“So my friend says: ‘He’s God – this gentleman is God.’ And then finally the guard let us in. It was funny that I wasn’t allowed to go back inside to the party because the security guard didn’t know who I was!"

Two years later and 560km southwest, the two clubs went at it again in Athens. Not without mishap. A lesson that, no matter how hard you work football throws up the unexpected and the remarkable.

Rafa Benítez with his prize

Benítez: “Well, I think we lost that final when we arrived because when we arrived we didn’t have a good hotel. We didn’t have good beds and [Peter] Crouch wouldn’t fit in any of them. And the players would fall out of them. They lost balance when they turned and I asked for the beds to be changed at once, but we were fighting against the clock.

“We were somewhere uncomfortable, and we made some adjustments to the beds. There weren’t enough rooms for everyone and after the final, which we lost. And we were quite, sorry to say this, annoyed and we had no rooms.

“So, I left my wife and the chief scout’s wife in my room, and he and I went for a walk. We were walking until 7am. without sleeping because we didn’t have a room and you are obviously going to be thinking about the match. On top of that, it was raining, so we had a great night.”

You may interpret that last remark as Spanish-Scouse sarcasm. But this exceptional tactical planner admits that half-time in Athens was as taxing as the 15-minute break in Istanbul – but without things ending happily. Benítez explains: "We had the bad luck of being scored against with a deflection off Xabi [Alonso] toward the end of the first half. Beforehand we had been working on the issue of temperature, we were worried because it was going to be hotter in Athens. We even used cooling vests to lower the temperature a few degrees during half-time. And I think that made us lose our focus. I think that goal they scored and all that mess during half-time made us lose our focus. We came out in the second half 1-0 down and we had to push the team forward.”

Whatever the cause and effect, Benítez duly swapped Javier Mascherano for Peter Crouch, gained aerial superiority but, he thinks, surrendered a grip in midfield. “I moved Stevie [Gerrard] further back, and that made us lose control, we lost the balance you get with Javier and Xabi Alonso in the midfield. Then, they found a gap between our lines, made a pass behind the defence, and scored.”

Two-nil later became 2-1, but too late.

On the pitch it was eventually honours even – one Champions League final to Liverpool, the other to Milan. But, for Benítez, an advancement in learning all the myriad tricks, twists and unexpected turns the final of the greatest ever club competition can spring on you. What it takes, in all senses, to become champion of the champions.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Of all the 63 Champions League and European Cup Finals thus far, few have had as much written about them, discussed or analysed as much as Istanbul in 2005.

Fifteen years on there remains a fascination for how random, quixotic, and logic-defying football can be – epitomised not only by Liverpool overturning a 3-0 deficit against AC Milan then holding on for penalties at 3-3. And by the inexplicable way in which the world’s greatest striker at the time, Andriy Shevchenko, somehow didn’t score from about three metres out with very little time before the final whistle.

Two facts add piquancy to an already spicy affair. Rafa Benítez can rightfully claim the title of the world’s most detail-obsessed, best-prepared, “controlling" football coach. So how did he come to win the most anarchic final of them all, where victory was scrambled, not yielded to planning? The second is that when the two clubs met in the final again two years later, there were also strange circumstances which, frankly, are as about as unknown as they are odd.

It’s often forgotten that Benítez was still in his first season at Liverpool, his first coaching abroad, when he masterminded the Champions League win. Things, including the English language, and its Scouse variant, were both new and coming at him thick and fast. During the season he worked such long hours that he’d sometimes find himself forgetting on which side of the road to drive in England, compared to Spain.

“I went out to dinner [one night] with my wife because it was her birthday and our anniversary. We left around eleven o’clock, it wasn’t late and I don’t drink alcohol. I was a little distracted and I went into the opposite lane and I drove over a speed bump. But they’re all natural instincts, suddenly you’re there and you realise you’re on the wrong side. Even when you cross the road you have to look both ways just incase!”

Cultural change. Just think about how tough it was, 3-0 down, at half-time in Istanbul, with complete uncertainty about whether Djimi Traoré or Steve Finnan was actually coming off. Think how easy it would have been for the under-pressure Spaniard to make a hash of the most pressurised, vital ten minutes of communication in his entire life. In a foreign language.

Rafa Benítez issues instructions from the touchline

He uses an anecdote to explain the vagaries of linguistics: “I recall one windy day at Melwood, our training ground, and we were doing set-pieces. Stevie Gerrard was shooting at goal and it was too windy. I said, ‘Be careful with the wined’ and they started to laugh, so I was like, ‘What’s going on?’

“Instead of saying ‘the wind’, it came out as: ‘Be careful with the wine.’ So everyone laughed. People usually don’t get how important those details are. When you have to give a speech, at half-time, you have to keep the intense mood and their attention and also tell the players what to do. As soon as you mispronounce a word or say something that doesn’t quite sound right, you lose their focus. I had to learn on the go. That’s why I always let people know how hard it is to give a speech at half-time in any game, but especially when you’re losing.”

But, of course, Benítez and his band of brothers were sufficiently co-ordinated, clever and characterful to eventually scale football’s Mount Everest and defeat AC Milan. Time to celebrate. But not without further, potentially horribly unfair, confusion. Amidst the unbridled joy as he hoisted Cup with the Big Ears skywards, word was forwarded to Benítez that someone close to him was, unfortunately, stuck outside the stadium main door and unable to join the party.
“Lifting the cup you don’t even notice what it weighs. Even if it was a hundred kilos, you’d pick it up anyway. That’s the easy part. Once you reached that euphoria, as you say, that satisfaction and happiness, you enjoy the moment and see everything around you, all the red with so many people with so much passion. At that moment you could look for friends or family but you won’t find them because everything is red and you can’t see anybody. "Then they shoot the confetti and it turns into a party. But while that party was going on, I was called and told: ‘Hey, there’s a friend of yours outside who isn’t being let in.’

“So, I go out the stadium and look for him but after I find him and we try to go back inside I discovered I didn’t have my credentials and the security guard wouldn’t let me back in! So, my friend says: ‘Do you know who this gentleman is?’ and the guard says, ‘No.’

“So my friend says: ‘He’s God – this gentleman is God.’ And then finally the guard let us in. It was funny that I wasn’t allowed to go back inside to the party because the security guard didn’t know who I was!"

Two years later and 560km southwest, the two clubs went at it again in Athens. Not without mishap. A lesson that, no matter how hard you work football throws up the unexpected and the remarkable.

Rafa Benítez with his prize

Benítez: “Well, I think we lost that final when we arrived because when we arrived we didn’t have a good hotel. We didn’t have good beds and [Peter] Crouch wouldn’t fit in any of them. And the players would fall out of them. They lost balance when they turned and I asked for the beds to be changed at once, but we were fighting against the clock.

“We were somewhere uncomfortable, and we made some adjustments to the beds. There weren’t enough rooms for everyone and after the final, which we lost. And we were quite, sorry to say this, annoyed and we had no rooms.

“So, I left my wife and the chief scout’s wife in my room, and he and I went for a walk. We were walking until 7am. without sleeping because we didn’t have a room and you are obviously going to be thinking about the match. On top of that, it was raining, so we had a great night.”

You may interpret that last remark as Spanish-Scouse sarcasm. But this exceptional tactical planner admits that half-time in Athens was as taxing as the 15-minute break in Istanbul – but without things ending happily. Benítez explains: "We had the bad luck of being scored against with a deflection off Xabi [Alonso] toward the end of the first half. Beforehand we had been working on the issue of temperature, we were worried because it was going to be hotter in Athens. We even used cooling vests to lower the temperature a few degrees during half-time. And I think that made us lose our focus. I think that goal they scored and all that mess during half-time made us lose our focus. We came out in the second half 1-0 down and we had to push the team forward.”

Whatever the cause and effect, Benítez duly swapped Javier Mascherano for Peter Crouch, gained aerial superiority but, he thinks, surrendered a grip in midfield. “I moved Stevie [Gerrard] further back, and that made us lose control, we lost the balance you get with Javier and Xabi Alonso in the midfield. Then, they found a gap between our lines, made a pass behind the defence, and scored.”

Two-nil later became 2-1, but too late.

On the pitch it was eventually honours even – one Champions League final to Liverpool, the other to Milan. But, for Benítez, an advancement in learning all the myriad tricks, twists and unexpected turns the final of the greatest ever club competition can spring on you. What it takes, in all senses, to become champion of the champions.

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Of all the 63 Champions League and European Cup Finals thus far, few have had as much written about them, discussed or analysed as much as Istanbul in 2005.

Fifteen years on there remains a fascination for how random, quixotic, and logic-defying football can be – epitomised not only by Liverpool overturning a 3-0 deficit against AC Milan then holding on for penalties at 3-3. And by the inexplicable way in which the world’s greatest striker at the time, Andriy Shevchenko, somehow didn’t score from about three metres out with very little time before the final whistle.

Two facts add piquancy to an already spicy affair. Rafa Benítez can rightfully claim the title of the world’s most detail-obsessed, best-prepared, “controlling" football coach. So how did he come to win the most anarchic final of them all, where victory was scrambled, not yielded to planning? The second is that when the two clubs met in the final again two years later, there were also strange circumstances which, frankly, are as about as unknown as they are odd.

It’s often forgotten that Benítez was still in his first season at Liverpool, his first coaching abroad, when he masterminded the Champions League win. Things, including the English language, and its Scouse variant, were both new and coming at him thick and fast. During the season he worked such long hours that he’d sometimes find himself forgetting on which side of the road to drive in England, compared to Spain.

“I went out to dinner [one night] with my wife because it was her birthday and our anniversary. We left around eleven o’clock, it wasn’t late and I don’t drink alcohol. I was a little distracted and I went into the opposite lane and I drove over a speed bump. But they’re all natural instincts, suddenly you’re there and you realise you’re on the wrong side. Even when you cross the road you have to look both ways just incase!”

Cultural change. Just think about how tough it was, 3-0 down, at half-time in Istanbul, with complete uncertainty about whether Djimi Traoré or Steve Finnan was actually coming off. Think how easy it would have been for the under-pressure Spaniard to make a hash of the most pressurised, vital ten minutes of communication in his entire life. In a foreign language.

Rafa Benítez issues instructions from the touchline

He uses an anecdote to explain the vagaries of linguistics: “I recall one windy day at Melwood, our training ground, and we were doing set-pieces. Stevie Gerrard was shooting at goal and it was too windy. I said, ‘Be careful with the wined’ and they started to laugh, so I was like, ‘What’s going on?’

“Instead of saying ‘the wind’, it came out as: ‘Be careful with the wine.’ So everyone laughed. People usually don’t get how important those details are. When you have to give a speech, at half-time, you have to keep the intense mood and their attention and also tell the players what to do. As soon as you mispronounce a word or say something that doesn’t quite sound right, you lose their focus. I had to learn on the go. That’s why I always let people know how hard it is to give a speech at half-time in any game, but especially when you’re losing.”

But, of course, Benítez and his band of brothers were sufficiently co-ordinated, clever and characterful to eventually scale football’s Mount Everest and defeat AC Milan. Time to celebrate. But not without further, potentially horribly unfair, confusion. Amidst the unbridled joy as he hoisted Cup with the Big Ears skywards, word was forwarded to Benítez that someone close to him was, unfortunately, stuck outside the stadium main door and unable to join the party.
“Lifting the cup you don’t even notice what it weighs. Even if it was a hundred kilos, you’d pick it up anyway. That’s the easy part. Once you reached that euphoria, as you say, that satisfaction and happiness, you enjoy the moment and see everything around you, all the red with so many people with so much passion. At that moment you could look for friends or family but you won’t find them because everything is red and you can’t see anybody. "Then they shoot the confetti and it turns into a party. But while that party was going on, I was called and told: ‘Hey, there’s a friend of yours outside who isn’t being let in.’

“So, I go out the stadium and look for him but after I find him and we try to go back inside I discovered I didn’t have my credentials and the security guard wouldn’t let me back in! So, my friend says: ‘Do you know who this gentleman is?’ and the guard says, ‘No.’

“So my friend says: ‘He’s God – this gentleman is God.’ And then finally the guard let us in. It was funny that I wasn’t allowed to go back inside to the party because the security guard didn’t know who I was!"

Two years later and 560km southwest, the two clubs went at it again in Athens. Not without mishap. A lesson that, no matter how hard you work football throws up the unexpected and the remarkable.

Rafa Benítez with his prize

Benítez: “Well, I think we lost that final when we arrived because when we arrived we didn’t have a good hotel. We didn’t have good beds and [Peter] Crouch wouldn’t fit in any of them. And the players would fall out of them. They lost balance when they turned and I asked for the beds to be changed at once, but we were fighting against the clock.

“We were somewhere uncomfortable, and we made some adjustments to the beds. There weren’t enough rooms for everyone and after the final, which we lost. And we were quite, sorry to say this, annoyed and we had no rooms.

“So, I left my wife and the chief scout’s wife in my room, and he and I went for a walk. We were walking until 7am. without sleeping because we didn’t have a room and you are obviously going to be thinking about the match. On top of that, it was raining, so we had a great night.”

You may interpret that last remark as Spanish-Scouse sarcasm. But this exceptional tactical planner admits that half-time in Athens was as taxing as the 15-minute break in Istanbul – but without things ending happily. Benítez explains: "We had the bad luck of being scored against with a deflection off Xabi [Alonso] toward the end of the first half. Beforehand we had been working on the issue of temperature, we were worried because it was going to be hotter in Athens. We even used cooling vests to lower the temperature a few degrees during half-time. And I think that made us lose our focus. I think that goal they scored and all that mess during half-time made us lose our focus. We came out in the second half 1-0 down and we had to push the team forward.”

Whatever the cause and effect, Benítez duly swapped Javier Mascherano for Peter Crouch, gained aerial superiority but, he thinks, surrendered a grip in midfield. “I moved Stevie [Gerrard] further back, and that made us lose control, we lost the balance you get with Javier and Xabi Alonso in the midfield. Then, they found a gap between our lines, made a pass behind the defence, and scored.”

Two-nil later became 2-1, but too late.

On the pitch it was eventually honours even – one Champions League final to Liverpool, the other to Milan. But, for Benítez, an advancement in learning all the myriad tricks, twists and unexpected turns the final of the greatest ever club competition can spring on you. What it takes, in all senses, to become champion of the champions.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Behind the scenes

Benítez’s tale of two finals

No matter how meticulous the planning, sometimes things are just beyond your control, as then Liverpool coach Rafa Benítez reveals to Graham Hunter in conversation about the 2005 and 2007 Champions League finals.

Of all the 63 Champions League and European Cup Finals thus far, few have had as much written about them, discussed or analysed as much as Istanbul in 2005.

Fifteen years on there remains a fascination for how random, quixotic, and logic-defying football can be – epitomised not only by Liverpool overturning a 3-0 deficit against AC Milan then holding on for penalties at 3-3. And by the inexplicable way in which the world’s greatest striker at the time, Andriy Shevchenko, somehow didn’t score from about three metres out with very little time before the final whistle.

Two facts add piquancy to an already spicy affair. Rafa Benítez can rightfully claim the title of the world’s most detail-obsessed, best-prepared, “controlling" football coach. So how did he come to win the most anarchic final of them all, where victory was scrambled, not yielded to planning? The second is that when the two clubs met in the final again two years later, there were also strange circumstances which, frankly, are as about as unknown as they are odd.

It’s often forgotten that Benítez was still in his first season at Liverpool, his first coaching abroad, when he masterminded the Champions League win. Things, including the English language, and its Scouse variant, were both new and coming at him thick and fast. During the season he worked such long hours that he’d sometimes find himself forgetting on which side of the road to drive in England, compared to Spain.

“I went out to dinner [one night] with my wife because it was her birthday and our anniversary. We left around eleven o’clock, it wasn’t late and I don’t drink alcohol. I was a little distracted and I went into the opposite lane and I drove over a speed bump. But they’re all natural instincts, suddenly you’re there and you realise you’re on the wrong side. Even when you cross the road you have to look both ways just incase!”

Cultural change. Just think about how tough it was, 3-0 down, at half-time in Istanbul, with complete uncertainty about whether Djimi Traoré or Steve Finnan was actually coming off. Think how easy it would have been for the under-pressure Spaniard to make a hash of the most pressurised, vital ten minutes of communication in his entire life. In a foreign language.

Rafa Benítez issues instructions from the touchline

He uses an anecdote to explain the vagaries of linguistics: “I recall one windy day at Melwood, our training ground, and we were doing set-pieces. Stevie Gerrard was shooting at goal and it was too windy. I said, ‘Be careful with the wined’ and they started to laugh, so I was like, ‘What’s going on?’

“Instead of saying ‘the wind’, it came out as: ‘Be careful with the wine.’ So everyone laughed. People usually don’t get how important those details are. When you have to give a speech, at half-time, you have to keep the intense mood and their attention and also tell the players what to do. As soon as you mispronounce a word or say something that doesn’t quite sound right, you lose their focus. I had to learn on the go. That’s why I always let people know how hard it is to give a speech at half-time in any game, but especially when you’re losing.”

But, of course, Benítez and his band of brothers were sufficiently co-ordinated, clever and characterful to eventually scale football’s Mount Everest and defeat AC Milan. Time to celebrate. But not without further, potentially horribly unfair, confusion. Amidst the unbridled joy as he hoisted Cup with the Big Ears skywards, word was forwarded to Benítez that someone close to him was, unfortunately, stuck outside the stadium main door and unable to join the party.
“Lifting the cup you don’t even notice what it weighs. Even if it was a hundred kilos, you’d pick it up anyway. That’s the easy part. Once you reached that euphoria, as you say, that satisfaction and happiness, you enjoy the moment and see everything around you, all the red with so many people with so much passion. At that moment you could look for friends or family but you won’t find them because everything is red and you can’t see anybody. "Then they shoot the confetti and it turns into a party. But while that party was going on, I was called and told: ‘Hey, there’s a friend of yours outside who isn’t being let in.’

“So, I go out the stadium and look for him but after I find him and we try to go back inside I discovered I didn’t have my credentials and the security guard wouldn’t let me back in! So, my friend says: ‘Do you know who this gentleman is?’ and the guard says, ‘No.’

“So my friend says: ‘He’s God – this gentleman is God.’ And then finally the guard let us in. It was funny that I wasn’t allowed to go back inside to the party because the security guard didn’t know who I was!"

Two years later and 560km southwest, the two clubs went at it again in Athens. Not without mishap. A lesson that, no matter how hard you work football throws up the unexpected and the remarkable.

Rafa Benítez with his prize

Benítez: “Well, I think we lost that final when we arrived because when we arrived we didn’t have a good hotel. We didn’t have good beds and [Peter] Crouch wouldn’t fit in any of them. And the players would fall out of them. They lost balance when they turned and I asked for the beds to be changed at once, but we were fighting against the clock.

“We were somewhere uncomfortable, and we made some adjustments to the beds. There weren’t enough rooms for everyone and after the final, which we lost. And we were quite, sorry to say this, annoyed and we had no rooms.

“So, I left my wife and the chief scout’s wife in my room, and he and I went for a walk. We were walking until 7am. without sleeping because we didn’t have a room and you are obviously going to be thinking about the match. On top of that, it was raining, so we had a great night.”

You may interpret that last remark as Spanish-Scouse sarcasm. But this exceptional tactical planner admits that half-time in Athens was as taxing as the 15-minute break in Istanbul – but without things ending happily. Benítez explains: "We had the bad luck of being scored against with a deflection off Xabi [Alonso] toward the end of the first half. Beforehand we had been working on the issue of temperature, we were worried because it was going to be hotter in Athens. We even used cooling vests to lower the temperature a few degrees during half-time. And I think that made us lose our focus. I think that goal they scored and all that mess during half-time made us lose our focus. We came out in the second half 1-0 down and we had to push the team forward.”

Whatever the cause and effect, Benítez duly swapped Javier Mascherano for Peter Crouch, gained aerial superiority but, he thinks, surrendered a grip in midfield. “I moved Stevie [Gerrard] further back, and that made us lose control, we lost the balance you get with Javier and Xabi Alonso in the midfield. Then, they found a gap between our lines, made a pass behind the defence, and scored.”

Two-nil later became 2-1, but too late.

On the pitch it was eventually honours even – one Champions League final to Liverpool, the other to Milan. But, for Benítez, an advancement in learning all the myriad tricks, twists and unexpected turns the final of the greatest ever club competition can spring on you. What it takes, in all senses, to become champion of the champions.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Of all the 63 Champions League and European Cup Finals thus far, few have had as much written about them, discussed or analysed as much as Istanbul in 2005.

Fifteen years on there remains a fascination for how random, quixotic, and logic-defying football can be – epitomised not only by Liverpool overturning a 3-0 deficit against AC Milan then holding on for penalties at 3-3. And by the inexplicable way in which the world’s greatest striker at the time, Andriy Shevchenko, somehow didn’t score from about three metres out with very little time before the final whistle.

Two facts add piquancy to an already spicy affair. Rafa Benítez can rightfully claim the title of the world’s most detail-obsessed, best-prepared, “controlling" football coach. So how did he come to win the most anarchic final of them all, where victory was scrambled, not yielded to planning? The second is that when the two clubs met in the final again two years later, there were also strange circumstances which, frankly, are as about as unknown as they are odd.

It’s often forgotten that Benítez was still in his first season at Liverpool, his first coaching abroad, when he masterminded the Champions League win. Things, including the English language, and its Scouse variant, were both new and coming at him thick and fast. During the season he worked such long hours that he’d sometimes find himself forgetting on which side of the road to drive in England, compared to Spain.

“I went out to dinner [one night] with my wife because it was her birthday and our anniversary. We left around eleven o’clock, it wasn’t late and I don’t drink alcohol. I was a little distracted and I went into the opposite lane and I drove over a speed bump. But they’re all natural instincts, suddenly you’re there and you realise you’re on the wrong side. Even when you cross the road you have to look both ways just incase!”

Cultural change. Just think about how tough it was, 3-0 down, at half-time in Istanbul, with complete uncertainty about whether Djimi Traoré or Steve Finnan was actually coming off. Think how easy it would have been for the under-pressure Spaniard to make a hash of the most pressurised, vital ten minutes of communication in his entire life. In a foreign language.

Rafa Benítez issues instructions from the touchline

He uses an anecdote to explain the vagaries of linguistics: “I recall one windy day at Melwood, our training ground, and we were doing set-pieces. Stevie Gerrard was shooting at goal and it was too windy. I said, ‘Be careful with the wined’ and they started to laugh, so I was like, ‘What’s going on?’

“Instead of saying ‘the wind’, it came out as: ‘Be careful with the wine.’ So everyone laughed. People usually don’t get how important those details are. When you have to give a speech, at half-time, you have to keep the intense mood and their attention and also tell the players what to do. As soon as you mispronounce a word or say something that doesn’t quite sound right, you lose their focus. I had to learn on the go. That’s why I always let people know how hard it is to give a speech at half-time in any game, but especially when you’re losing.”

But, of course, Benítez and his band of brothers were sufficiently co-ordinated, clever and characterful to eventually scale football’s Mount Everest and defeat AC Milan. Time to celebrate. But not without further, potentially horribly unfair, confusion. Amidst the unbridled joy as he hoisted Cup with the Big Ears skywards, word was forwarded to Benítez that someone close to him was, unfortunately, stuck outside the stadium main door and unable to join the party.
“Lifting the cup you don’t even notice what it weighs. Even if it was a hundred kilos, you’d pick it up anyway. That’s the easy part. Once you reached that euphoria, as you say, that satisfaction and happiness, you enjoy the moment and see everything around you, all the red with so many people with so much passion. At that moment you could look for friends or family but you won’t find them because everything is red and you can’t see anybody. "Then they shoot the confetti and it turns into a party. But while that party was going on, I was called and told: ‘Hey, there’s a friend of yours outside who isn’t being let in.’

“So, I go out the stadium and look for him but after I find him and we try to go back inside I discovered I didn’t have my credentials and the security guard wouldn’t let me back in! So, my friend says: ‘Do you know who this gentleman is?’ and the guard says, ‘No.’

“So my friend says: ‘He’s God – this gentleman is God.’ And then finally the guard let us in. It was funny that I wasn’t allowed to go back inside to the party because the security guard didn’t know who I was!"

Two years later and 560km southwest, the two clubs went at it again in Athens. Not without mishap. A lesson that, no matter how hard you work football throws up the unexpected and the remarkable.

Rafa Benítez with his prize

Benítez: “Well, I think we lost that final when we arrived because when we arrived we didn’t have a good hotel. We didn’t have good beds and [Peter] Crouch wouldn’t fit in any of them. And the players would fall out of them. They lost balance when they turned and I asked for the beds to be changed at once, but we were fighting against the clock.

“We were somewhere uncomfortable, and we made some adjustments to the beds. There weren’t enough rooms for everyone and after the final, which we lost. And we were quite, sorry to say this, annoyed and we had no rooms.

“So, I left my wife and the chief scout’s wife in my room, and he and I went for a walk. We were walking until 7am. without sleeping because we didn’t have a room and you are obviously going to be thinking about the match. On top of that, it was raining, so we had a great night.”

You may interpret that last remark as Spanish-Scouse sarcasm. But this exceptional tactical planner admits that half-time in Athens was as taxing as the 15-minute break in Istanbul – but without things ending happily. Benítez explains: "We had the bad luck of being scored against with a deflection off Xabi [Alonso] toward the end of the first half. Beforehand we had been working on the issue of temperature, we were worried because it was going to be hotter in Athens. We even used cooling vests to lower the temperature a few degrees during half-time. And I think that made us lose our focus. I think that goal they scored and all that mess during half-time made us lose our focus. We came out in the second half 1-0 down and we had to push the team forward.”

Whatever the cause and effect, Benítez duly swapped Javier Mascherano for Peter Crouch, gained aerial superiority but, he thinks, surrendered a grip in midfield. “I moved Stevie [Gerrard] further back, and that made us lose control, we lost the balance you get with Javier and Xabi Alonso in the midfield. Then, they found a gap between our lines, made a pass behind the defence, and scored.”

Two-nil later became 2-1, but too late.

On the pitch it was eventually honours even – one Champions League final to Liverpool, the other to Milan. But, for Benítez, an advancement in learning all the myriad tricks, twists and unexpected turns the final of the greatest ever club competition can spring on you. What it takes, in all senses, to become champion of the champions.

Read the full story
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Of all the 63 Champions League and European Cup Finals thus far, few have had as much written about them, discussed or analysed as much as Istanbul in 2005.

Fifteen years on there remains a fascination for how random, quixotic, and logic-defying football can be – epitomised not only by Liverpool overturning a 3-0 deficit against AC Milan then holding on for penalties at 3-3. And by the inexplicable way in which the world’s greatest striker at the time, Andriy Shevchenko, somehow didn’t score from about three metres out with very little time before the final whistle.

Two facts add piquancy to an already spicy affair. Rafa Benítez can rightfully claim the title of the world’s most detail-obsessed, best-prepared, “controlling" football coach. So how did he come to win the most anarchic final of them all, where victory was scrambled, not yielded to planning? The second is that when the two clubs met in the final again two years later, there were also strange circumstances which, frankly, are as about as unknown as they are odd.

It’s often forgotten that Benítez was still in his first season at Liverpool, his first coaching abroad, when he masterminded the Champions League win. Things, including the English language, and its Scouse variant, were both new and coming at him thick and fast. During the season he worked such long hours that he’d sometimes find himself forgetting on which side of the road to drive in England, compared to Spain.

“I went out to dinner [one night] with my wife because it was her birthday and our anniversary. We left around eleven o’clock, it wasn’t late and I don’t drink alcohol. I was a little distracted and I went into the opposite lane and I drove over a speed bump. But they’re all natural instincts, suddenly you’re there and you realise you’re on the wrong side. Even when you cross the road you have to look both ways just incase!”

Cultural change. Just think about how tough it was, 3-0 down, at half-time in Istanbul, with complete uncertainty about whether Djimi Traoré or Steve Finnan was actually coming off. Think how easy it would have been for the under-pressure Spaniard to make a hash of the most pressurised, vital ten minutes of communication in his entire life. In a foreign language.

Rafa Benítez issues instructions from the touchline

He uses an anecdote to explain the vagaries of linguistics: “I recall one windy day at Melwood, our training ground, and we were doing set-pieces. Stevie Gerrard was shooting at goal and it was too windy. I said, ‘Be careful with the wined’ and they started to laugh, so I was like, ‘What’s going on?’

“Instead of saying ‘the wind’, it came out as: ‘Be careful with the wine.’ So everyone laughed. People usually don’t get how important those details are. When you have to give a speech, at half-time, you have to keep the intense mood and their attention and also tell the players what to do. As soon as you mispronounce a word or say something that doesn’t quite sound right, you lose their focus. I had to learn on the go. That’s why I always let people know how hard it is to give a speech at half-time in any game, but especially when you’re losing.”

But, of course, Benítez and his band of brothers were sufficiently co-ordinated, clever and characterful to eventually scale football’s Mount Everest and defeat AC Milan. Time to celebrate. But not without further, potentially horribly unfair, confusion. Amidst the unbridled joy as he hoisted Cup with the Big Ears skywards, word was forwarded to Benítez that someone close to him was, unfortunately, stuck outside the stadium main door and unable to join the party.
“Lifting the cup you don’t even notice what it weighs. Even if it was a hundred kilos, you’d pick it up anyway. That’s the easy part. Once you reached that euphoria, as you say, that satisfaction and happiness, you enjoy the moment and see everything around you, all the red with so many people with so much passion. At that moment you could look for friends or family but you won’t find them because everything is red and you can’t see anybody. "Then they shoot the confetti and it turns into a party. But while that party was going on, I was called and told: ‘Hey, there’s a friend of yours outside who isn’t being let in.’

“So, I go out the stadium and look for him but after I find him and we try to go back inside I discovered I didn’t have my credentials and the security guard wouldn’t let me back in! So, my friend says: ‘Do you know who this gentleman is?’ and the guard says, ‘No.’

“So my friend says: ‘He’s God – this gentleman is God.’ And then finally the guard let us in. It was funny that I wasn’t allowed to go back inside to the party because the security guard didn’t know who I was!"

Two years later and 560km southwest, the two clubs went at it again in Athens. Not without mishap. A lesson that, no matter how hard you work football throws up the unexpected and the remarkable.

Rafa Benítez with his prize

Benítez: “Well, I think we lost that final when we arrived because when we arrived we didn’t have a good hotel. We didn’t have good beds and [Peter] Crouch wouldn’t fit in any of them. And the players would fall out of them. They lost balance when they turned and I asked for the beds to be changed at once, but we were fighting against the clock.

“We were somewhere uncomfortable, and we made some adjustments to the beds. There weren’t enough rooms for everyone and after the final, which we lost. And we were quite, sorry to say this, annoyed and we had no rooms.

“So, I left my wife and the chief scout’s wife in my room, and he and I went for a walk. We were walking until 7am. without sleeping because we didn’t have a room and you are obviously going to be thinking about the match. On top of that, it was raining, so we had a great night.”

You may interpret that last remark as Spanish-Scouse sarcasm. But this exceptional tactical planner admits that half-time in Athens was as taxing as the 15-minute break in Istanbul – but without things ending happily. Benítez explains: "We had the bad luck of being scored against with a deflection off Xabi [Alonso] toward the end of the first half. Beforehand we had been working on the issue of temperature, we were worried because it was going to be hotter in Athens. We even used cooling vests to lower the temperature a few degrees during half-time. And I think that made us lose our focus. I think that goal they scored and all that mess during half-time made us lose our focus. We came out in the second half 1-0 down and we had to push the team forward.”

Whatever the cause and effect, Benítez duly swapped Javier Mascherano for Peter Crouch, gained aerial superiority but, he thinks, surrendered a grip in midfield. “I moved Stevie [Gerrard] further back, and that made us lose control, we lost the balance you get with Javier and Xabi Alonso in the midfield. Then, they found a gap between our lines, made a pass behind the defence, and scored.”

Two-nil later became 2-1, but too late.

On the pitch it was eventually honours even – one Champions League final to Liverpool, the other to Milan. But, for Benítez, an advancement in learning all the myriad tricks, twists and unexpected turns the final of the greatest ever club competition can spring on you. What it takes, in all senses, to become champion of the champions.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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