Ex-Red LETS RIP at 'coward' Rafa Benitez over Istanbul snub

Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League win against AC Milan in Istanbul will go down in football history, following one of the greatest comebacks the game has ever seen. 

However, the game is not remembered fondly by all of those associated with the club. 

Stephen Warnock played four games during the Reds’ run to the final, including 90 minutes in the round of 16 second-leg victory over Bayer Leverkusen. 

But the ex-left back has now SLAMMED Rafael Benitez for the manner in which he was treated in the days preceding the final. 

Initially named in the matchday squad for the game against Rossoneri, the 42-year-old was left STUNNED when he received a phone call with the news that he hadn’t made the selection after all.

And all the more galling was the fact that Benitez failed to get in touch personally. 

“His man management is horrendous,” Warnock tells the Undr the Cosh podcast. “I’ve said this to loads of people – his tactics are brilliant, but his man management is zero. 

“He has no idea how to speak to anyone or talk to anyone. It was summed up by Istanbul. Istanbul was an absolute disgrace with how he treated me and a few of the lads. He just didn’t care. 

“It was two weeks after the season that the Champions League final was on, we were in for those two weeks. 


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“Two days before we were going over to travel to Istanbul and I remember the last training session, every time a squad list of 18 would go up, it would be the first 11 and the subs. There was no added two or three players to travel. 

Warnock on Rafa: 'You f*cking coward'

“I remember running in after the last training session thinking: ‘Please be in’. I looked on the squad list and my name was there. “I was like: ‘F*cking hell, it’s the Champions League final. I’m either on the bench or playing’. 

“I showered as quick as I could, got my phone and rang my family and said: ‘Listen, get the plane tickets to Istanbul’. 

“I’m at home packing to get ready and my phone goes and it was Paco Ayestaran, who was the number two at the time to Rafa. 

“He goes: ‘We’ve made a mistake on the squad, you’re not in it’. I was like: ‘What?’ He didn’t even have the b*llocks to ring me. I was like: ‘You f*cking coward’. I was fuming. 

The team travelled, played the game, and after he comes up to me and says: ‘I’ll speak to you next week’. He didn’t apologise.”

Warnock played 67 games overall for Liverpool, including 19 games in the 2004-05 Premier League season and 20 in the following campaign. 

He admits he wasn’t one of the top earners when the final rolled around, which made his omission all the more costly. 

CL snub cost Warnock £200k

“I remember thinking at the time – it shouldn’t come into it, but it did – it was one of the biggest games of football’s year, but our bonus was massive either way,” he revealed. 

“It was £100,000 to lose it and £200,000 to win it. And I was thinking: ‘F*cking hell, that’s a massive amount of money’, because I wasn’t on much money at the time. Whoever’s in the 18, it doesn’t go pro rata across the squad. Literally, if you’re in the 18, you get it.

“I’ve come from thinking last year I’m going to be playing in the Championship with Coventry, being on decent-ish money, but nowhere near that.”

“[Steven] Gerrard came up to me after the game and said: ‘It’s s*it what happened, we’ll make sure you get your money’. I’ve still not seen it – why say it?”

Trainer Rafael Benitez und Steven Gerrard beide Liverpool präsentieren stolz die Trophäe

Warnock also admits to ‘hating’ Benitez following the Istanbul snub, made worse by the fact that he missed out on the opportunity to share in the glory with his team-mates and fans at the victory parade around Liverpool. 

Stephen Warnock: 'I hated Rafa'

“It was hard for me because I’m a Liverpool fan and grew up standing on the Kop and I was thinking: ‘I hate this team’. I was fuming,” he said.

“It’s not like I hated the team, I hated Rafa. I was sat there so happy for the lads, but also p*ssed off.

“I remember that night they said the plane leaves at this time to go to the parade in Liverpool, then they changed it and said all the squad involved, and their wives and girlfriends, were on it. 

“We missed the parade and I watched it on Sky Sports. We missed it because our flight was late coming in. 

“The squad literally landed at Liverpool airport, got ferried to the buses and started the parade. “I just remember thinking: ‘What a s*itshow’. I was gone, I’d decided I was leaving.”

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