Rafa Benitez reveals how language barrier left his Liverpool squad laughing

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Rafa Benitez has stressed the importance of managers learning the native language upon taking a job abroad, from his experience from the Liverpool dressing room.

Sixteen years on from taking over at Anfield, Benitez is cherished as an honorary Scouser, who still lives on the Wirral and holds a strong affinity with supporters.

His impact on the club was immediate, leading to the Champions League triumph in 2005, but it took time for Benitez to work around the language barrier on Merseyside.

In an interview with UEFA.com, the Spaniard explained how simple problems with translation led to the Liverpool squad breaking out in laughter, and believes it can lead to players “losing their focus.”

“We were doing set-pieces. Stevie Gerrard was shooting at goal and it was too windy,” he said of an early training session.

“I said, ‘be careful with the wine’. They started to laugh. So I was like, ‘what’s going on?’. Instead of saying the wind, I said the wine.

“People usually don’t get how important those details are. When you have to give a speech, at half-time, you have to keep the intense mood and their attention, and also tell the players what to do.

“As soon as you mispronounce a word or say something that doesn’t quite sound right, you lose their focus.

Liverpool, England - Friday, March 2, 2007: Liverpool's Javier Mascherano with manager Rafael Benitez and Jamie Carragher during training at Melwood ahead of the Premiership match against Manchester United at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“I have another story with Crouch. It was a friendly against Olympiakos. I was explaining something on the board with my notes.

“I had Alex Miller as an assistant, who was Scottish, and he wrote down what I was going to say.

“I had ‘press when losing’ written down in my notes, so I asked Crouch, who was starting that year, ‘what should we do when we lose the ball?’, and he says, ‘close it down’. So I say, ‘no’.

“Then I ask Dietmar Hamann, who obviously has very good English, ‘Didi, if we lose the ball?’. He says, ‘close it down’. And I say, ‘no’.

“Then I ask Cisse, who speaks French and English like me and he says, ‘press when losing’. And I say, ‘right’.

“Everyone started laughing because as you know ‘close it down’ is more or less the same as ‘press when losing’. But I didn’t know that, I had to learn on the go.

“That’s why I always let people know how hard it is to give a speech at half-time in any game, but especially when you’re losing.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - WEDNESDAY JUNE 16 2004: Rafael Benitez poses for a photograph with the famous 'This is Anfield' sign in the tunnel at Anfield as he is unveiled as Liverpool FC's new manager. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Benitez explained how he used the Beatles’ Red and Blue albums to help him learn English before moving from Valencia, but it was “different” as they “just spoke with Scouse accents.”

His fondness for the city and its people shines through, and despite his early struggles with the language he praised how Liverpudlians “welcomed me from the get-go.”

“I saw they had an amazing passion for football from the start; they have high hopes when it comes to competing,” he continued.

“They’re very competitive, they want to win and that is infectious.

“People want to win, they all come together. They work hard and commit to each other. They stand up for each other.

“I think the hard times a working-class and professional city like Liverpool has been through makes them stronger and makes them live the good times more intensely.”

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