Articles

I owe my striking success to master of detail, Benitez

"Rafa Benitez is obsessed with details. He calculates everything, including runs and flights of the ball, and studies it on his computer.

"And if he tells you to stand five feet from the penalty spot, it's not in your best interests to be six feet from it. He'll show you that the extra distance makes the difference between a goal and a missed chance – and it has worked for me.

"The proof for me is that I had never scored a club hat-trick in my life before joining Liverpool. But I've since got three, against Reading, Middlesbrough and West Ham.

"Rafa explained everything to me before I even signed – how we would play, and what our aims were. He even gave me a work schedule in advance.

"He has great powers of seduction and he makes crazy demands on us. At the end of training, when we are all tired, he can still make us repeat routines 20 or 30 times.

"I found the Anfield dressing-room very old and very small, and the players are right up against one another inside it. Rafa has tried to get it extended several times.

"But the senior players told him that the dressing-room had been like that for a lifetime and that it was like a listed building.

"The first home game I played was against Chelsea. I went back inside after the pre-match warm-up, and the crowd was singing so loudly the walls seemed to shake.

I remember thinking that there is no way we can lose here and that day I scored against Chelsea.

"Nobody is sure of his first-team place at Liverpool. Rafa is merciless, and anyone who wants to play in matches has to earn the right in training.

"It is different to Spain, where only an earthquake can change the pecking order at a club. You soon learn the Liverpool way of doing things.

"If you train like an amateur you end up dropped to the bench for the next game.

"Training sessions here are tough and committed and at the same rhythm as proper matches. The spirit is the same at the weekend. English football is physical and reasonably honest – in contrast to La Liga.

"The Spanish game is more vicious, and you get studs-first challenges and elbowings off the ball. All defenders in England are tough, the good ones and the less gifted likewise. It must be written in their contracts!

"But now I've taken that on board I've got to go out and earn my money. I am paid to deal with this and I am not scared of a scrap so long as it is fair.

"I have wanted to play against guys like John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho for a long time, and they do me an honour by giving me a tough time.

"Now I'm going to try to respond to them by getting a couple of goals against Chelsea. Everybody dreams about playing in the Champions League and in the space of a few months I have gone from watching it on TV to having a part in it.

"I have already got plenty of memories. My goal at the San Siro when we beat Inter Milan 1-0, the 4-0 win over Marseille, and my goal in the 4-2 win over Arsenal.

"And now it is the turn of Chelsea. I don't ask myself questions – I just tell myself time and again that I have done the right thing to join Liverpool."

Copyright - Daily Mail


Back

Season archive

We've got all the results from official games, appearance stats, goal stats and basically every conceivable statistic from 1892 to the present, every single line-up and substitutions!