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“I’m a former Liverpool star and I hate Rafa Benitez for what he did in Istanbul” | Football | Sports

Former Liverpool star Stephen Warnock has revealed he “hated” Rafa Benitez for leaving him out of the matchday squad to face AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final. Warnock was initially named in the 18-man squad , but lost out on a £200,000 bonus after a late switch.

The Reds came from three goals down to force a penalty shoot-out, in which they triumphed to lift the Champions League trophy. But despite the remarkable success, young left-back Warnock was left to scorn Benitez for a remarkable ordeal in the days leading up to the trip to Istanbul.

Benitez initially named Warnock, then 23, in his matchday squad, only to withdraw him and replace him with Josemi. The left back still harbors bitterness to this day.

“His management is terrible. Tactically, brilliant. Man-leader, zero. I have absolutely no idea how to talk to anyone. It was summed up by Istanbul, it was an absolute disgrace the way he treated me and some of the other guys. He just didn’t care,” Warnock told the Under the Cosh Podcast.

Asked to expand on the situation, Warnock continued: “We were training two weeks before the final in Istanbul. Two days before you travel, you receive a squad list of 18 players, the first 11 and seven substitutes. You knew if you were playing or on the bench, there weren’t two or three added players whose jobs were just to travel.

“I remember running after the last training session and thinking ‘please be in’. My name was on the team list and I’m thinking, ‘Damn it’s the Champions League final and I’m on the bench, or I’m playing’, so I ran outside to call my family. tell them to book plane tickets.

“At home, I’m packing everything to get ready and then my phone comes out. Pako Ayestaran was number 2 for Rafa. He says, “I made a mistake on the team list, you’re not on it.” I said: “What?!”. He (Benitez) didn’t even want to call me and I said: “Damn coward”. I was smoking.

“The team went away, played the game and said to me, ‘I’ll talk next week.’ He didn’t apologize. It shouldn’t have gone into it, but it did, our bonus was massive. It was £100,000 to lose and £200,000 to win. This is a huge amount of money for me at that time.

“(Steven) Gerrard said, ‘We’ll make sure you get your money.’ I haven’t seen it yet. Why does he say that? It was hard for me because I grew up supporting Liverpool, sitting on the Kop, but I was thinking, ‘I bloody hate this team’. I didn’t necessarily hate the team, but I hated Rafa. I was so happy for the boys, but I was also mad.”

Warnock was later told that defender Josemi had complained about not being in the matchday squad, leading to the academy graduate being left out. He added: “I’m told Josemi knocked on the door and said he wasn’t happy he wasn’t included. They traded him, and I was the youngest player on the team, so it was like, “Well, he’s out.”

“If you look at the photo (of Gerrard lifting the trophy), Josemi is front and centre. He’s right next to Gerrard when he took it. He’s got a Spanish flag around him and he’s literally trying to grab the trophy.”

Warnock, now 42, has revealed he told friends he was leaving Liverpool that summer but hung on for two more years at Anfield. He joined Blackburn in 2007 and had spells with Aston Villa, Leeds, Derby, Wigan and Burton before retiring in 2018.

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