Former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has paid tribute to Miki Roque following the Spanish defender’s death from cancer aged just 23.
Benitez signed Roque as a youth player in 2005, with the central defender spending four years on Merseyside before returning to Spain. Despite only making a solitary first-team appearance, tributes from former team-mates and friends at Liverpool have poured in since his death.
Roque was forced to retire last year after he was diagnosed with pelvic cancer.
Speaking in his column in The Independent, Benitez said;
The death at the weekend of one of the first players I signed at Liverpool, Miki Roque, has really put the European Championship into perspective for me.
It was a shock, because when I was in contact with Miki’s family after he was diagnosed with a tumour in his pelvis last year it seemed that the operation had gone well.
He came to us from a modest level of Spanish football and threw himself into English life.
Of all the Spanish players I have signed, I don’t know if any had such good as English as Miki.
He came on in the Champions League for us at Galatasaray and in the end he returned to Spain to further his career at Real Betis.
He was a friend of our Austrian forward Besian Idrizaj, another player whose life was lost when he suffered a heart attack, two years ago. The game of football really is the most insignificant thing. Rest in peace, Miki.
Spanish international Sergio Busquets, a former team-mate of Miki’s before he joined Liverpool, says if Spain win Euro 2012 they will dedicate it to Roque.
“After hearing the tragic news of the death of a team-mate, I wanted to give all my support and strength to the family and friends of Miki Roque.
“A great person has gone, a great sportsman, an example to everyone, but above all, a great team-mate, one with whom I shared many moments which I will never forget, has left us.
“After being left in a state of shock and realising how unfair life is, in these moments I have just one thought, to do everything possible to dedicate this triumph that we are all fighting for, to him.”
Meanwhile, it has also emerged that Barcelona defender Carles Puyol had been paying for Roque’s medical costs.
Rest in Peace, Miki. YNWA.