The former technical director of Real Madrid, Jorge Valdano, has been blasted today by Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez.
Valdano was writing in Spanish newspaper Marca recently after the Champions League semi-final and criticised both managers for their styles of football. With no Spanish sides in the semi-finals, in fact there were three English sides, Valdano wasn't happy. Liverpool have become extremely popular in Spain because of the Spanish connection, and no doubt Valdano had seen much written about Liverpool's triumph over Chelsea. The triumph came accompanied by the noise and passion of the Anfield crowd, and Valdano claimed this passion disguised a terrible show of football.
His words will take a long time to forget: “Football is made up of subjective feeling, of suggestion – and, in that, Anfield is unbeatable. Put a shit hanging from a stick in the middle of this passionate, crazy stadium and there are people who will tell you it's a work of art. It's not. It's a shit hanging from a stick.”
Rafa gave his response today. “The people at this club who are working to obtain the targets we are achieving deserve respect, a deep respect. I believe that he has shown a lack of respect to the club and the fans and the sacred stage of Anfield. Speaking of ‘shit hanging from a stick’ and other unfair comparisons show he has absolutely no knowledge of the historical reality of this organisation in world football.”
Valdano left Real two years ago. Rafa was once part of the coaching staff at Real of course, and has been courted more than once by Real since he became Liverpool boss. But he’s not impressed with Valdano: “I have known Jorge Valdano for more than 20 years since my time at Real Madrid and I do not have the best professional concept of him. I believe that he has much to thank to people like Ramon Martinez, Cappa or Giráldez, to mention only some examples, of trainers or sporting directors he’s worked like. These are people who have made a bigger contribution.”
Rafa was scathing in his response, annoyed most of all at the lack of respect shown by the Argentinean: “It infuriates to me that a person who has the privilege of being able to express himself in the media does not do so with honour and education and does not show, I repeat, the minimum respect to an institution like Liverpool, with it’s success and history.”
As well as his shit-on-a-stick comments Valdano had said: “Chelsea and Liverpool are the clearest, most exaggerated example of the way football is going: very intense, very collective, very tactical, very physical, and very direct. But, a short pass? Noooo. A feint? Noooo. A change of pace? Noooo. A one-two? A nutmeg? A backheel? Don't be ridiculous. None of that. The extreme control and seriousness with which both teams played the semi-final neutralised any creative licence, any moments of exquisite skill. If football is going the way Chelsea and Liverpool are taking it, we had better be ready to wave goodbye to any expression of the cleverness and talent we have enjoyed for a century.”
Valdano had a go at both coaches because their playing careers weren’t the best: “The lives of Mourinho and Benítez have crossed in a world that is ever more scrutinised and exposed by the media, which is why they look at each other with such distrust. But they have two things in common: a previously denied, hitherto unsatisfied hunger for glory, and a desire to have everything under control. Both of those things stem from one key factor: neither Mourinho nor Benítez made it as a player.”
Valdano, who managed just one championship and no European Cups during his time as a coach, went on: “That has made them channel all their vanity into coaching. Those who did not have the talent to make it as players do not believe in the talent of players, they do not believe in the ability to improvise in order to win football matches. In short, Benítez and Mourinho are exactly the kind of coaches that Benítez and Mourinho would have needed to have made it as players.”
Liverpool of course would have had more trickery on show had Luis Garcia been available. Unfortunately he was injured and despite him returning to training again today he won’t be picked for the Champions League final – he was taken out of the official squad in January to make way for Mascherano.