Rafa: I’m staying, end of story

After winning the European Cup with Liverpool in May, Rafael Benitez had a fairly quiet time, still working but rarely needing to bother with press conferences. This soon changed with the commencement of the transfer business of the summer, and before too long Steven Gerrard’s future was in question and the press were camped outside Melwood. After that the rest of the summer seemed to be all about Michael Owen and whether he was about to replace Djibril Cisse. That continued through until the end of August when the transfer window was closed. Day after day Rafa had to answer the same questions, always with the same answer. Then the permanently-repeated topic became Peter Crouch’s lack of goals. This was the subject of every press conference from sometime back in September until last weekend, when Crouch got his first TWO goals for the club.

Now that’s over, Real Madrid have created a new question for the interviews and press calls for Rafa. Basically, until Real appoint somebody to their position of coach, Rafa will be asked, "Are you going to join Madrid?"  For however long this takes, Rafa’s answer will be the same as it was today: "I am happy at Liverpool, I am Liverpool’s manager and I have a job to do here."

He knew it was likely to be asked, and he knows it will keep being asked, but Rafa is determined to continue Liverpool’s improvement and will not be talking to Real – even if Liverpool gave him permission: "I have said this in the past and now I have an important game in the Champions league against Chelsea to think about and that is all that is on my mind. I certainly will not allow this speculation to disrupt my preparation for the game, but as I say, I am happy here at this club."

Rafa has already talked of his dreams of managing at Anfield for at least 10 successful years, before handing over to Steven Gerrard, so the press are wasting their time asking him about it really. Not that it will stop them of course.

Liverpool are on a good run at the moment, another clean sheet at Anfield on Saturday saw them come out of the weekend in third place in the league. They’ve done this with a run of eight games unbeaten, eight clean sheets. They’ve won seven of those eight games, and have only conceded in two games at Anfield this season. One of those games was against Chelsea, when they conceded four goals in a game where the result didn’t really tell the true story of the game. Tomorrow sees the two teams meet up again, this time at Stamford Bridge, but Rafa says that the match doesn’t really matter all that much: "My idea is to always win every game we play and we will do our best against Chelsea but this is one for us without pressure. We would like to finish first in the group but this is not the most important game of the season for us. We have already qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, we would like to keep our good run going but there isn’t any pressure on us for this game."

Rafa also paid a quick compliment to their opponents tomorrow: "Chelsea are a good team with a good manager and it’s fantastic for both clubs to have already qualified. The last game was not good for us but we matched them before and played at a very good level."

And about that Madrid job? Rafa repeated: "All I am thinking about is my team and three more points."