Rafa on the night he went to the pub

"It was fantastic. We went out to see the second part of the Chelsea game but we only ended up seeing our supporters. The atmosphere was amazing and we could really feel it. Normally we only see or hear them in the stands so it was fantastic to meet them close up. 
I was not expecting there to be so many Liverpool fans in Germany. Just before going into the Irish bar we thought there might be some fans in there but not that many! 
We tried to sneak in without anyone noticing and I said to the first fan 'ssshhhhh be quiet', but next thing the whole place erupted and everyone was singing 'Rafa-Rafa-Benitez'. 
I stayed for about 50 minutes but it was impossible to watch the game after that. All the fans gathered around me, singing, shaking my hand and taking photographs with their mobile telephones. I told them to forget about me and watch the game but it was impossible. 
The singing continued all the time I was there. It was great. The fans of this club are totally different to those in Spain. In my third year at Valencia the fans began to sing but here they have been singing since I arrived. They are always singing. And to experience it at close hand in the pub was just fantastic."
So will a trip to the pub now be part of Rafa's regular pre-match routine, especially as it was followed by a memorable win on the pitch?
"Oh no," he laughs. "Normally we will be in the hotel concentrating. It was only because there were important games on the TV and we couldn't watch them in the hotel."
The high esteem in which Benitez is held by the Liverpool fans has certainly reached new heights following the midweek trip to Cologne. 
But his soaring popularity was best illustrated prior to the Carling Cup Final in Cardiff when a group of supporters paraded through the streets holding a giant framed picture of the 'Rafa-tollah'.
"Yes, I have seen the pictures," he says with a beaming smile across his face. "I must say I was both surprised and impressed.
"It is not normal in Spain, maybe Iran but not Spain! It's a kudos thing and for me as a manager it was fantastic to see the fans showing their support for me in such a way.
"It was just a pity we couldn't have won the final for these supporters and all of our other supporters but I can assure them that we are doing all we can to give them some trophies to celebrate in the future."


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