Football News

“Gerrard was the player-manager” — Ex-Liverpool winger Pennant lambasts Rafa Benitez’s poor communication skills

By Ben Green

Published: 11:56, 22 July 2021 | Updated: 12:54, 19 September 2022

Former Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant has heavily criticised Rafa Benitez’s managerial style during his stint at Anfield.

Benitez, 61, was recently announced as the new manager of Everton much to the frustration of some fans given his affiliation to arch-rivals Liverpool, in which the Spaniard oversaw a highly-succesful period between 2004 and 2010.

The Madrid-born tactician guided the Reds to two Champions League finals, famously masterminding the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’, with his side overturning a three-goal deficit at half-time to Milan and winning on penalties. He also won the 2006 FA Cup.

Given his heroics at Anfield and the deep-seated attachment he has to Liverpool, some Evertonians have been less than impressed by the appointment, with the revered coach succeeding Carlo Ancelotti at Goodison Park, who returned to Real Madrid in June.

Pennant has now fanned the flames of that discontent, verbally laying into his former manager, who he described as a ‘poor man-manager’, before going on to explain how Gerrard essentially ruled the roost and conducted the team talks.

“Look, it’s different for every player, different players will react differently with Rafa,” Pennant told talkSPORT.

“But in my eyes he wasn’t a great man-manager. His skills in that department were lacking.

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“Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have also made this publicly known as well, that they felt it was difficult.

“I felt it was difficult to approach him, have a conversation and maybe talk about certain situations on and off the pitch.

“He wouldn’t come up to you, he wouldn’t grab you by the side and have a chat about whatever you need to discuss. He kind of left it to Gerrard.

“Especially to big games, at half-time if things weren’t going very well, it wouldn’t be him pointing fingers and shouting instructions and telling you what needs to be done to win this game.

“It would have been Steven coming in giving you an effing and blinding.

“Playing back then, I wouldn’t want to annoy Gerrard first, and then my manager. Steven was the player-manager. I think every player will take it differently with him.”

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‘Sorry Everton fans! The club will go stagnant under him’

Despite an explosive start to 2020/21, in which Everton won their opening four games, with new recruits James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure all settling in nicely, the Toffees’ form nosedived and the club eventually finished 10th, when European football looked a foregone conclusion at one point.

Benitez’s job will be to build on that and ensure the club secure a higher finish to gain entry to continental football, as well as ridding the stigma of the ‘Everton Cup’, in which the Merseysiders are regularly mocked for seemingly always finishing just below the Premier League’s title challengers — or ‘Big Six’.

However, Pennant, who made 81 appearances for Liverpool in three years between 2006 and 2009, does not believe Benitez has the managerial skillset to oversee such a revolution at Goodison Park, instead believing the club will go ‘stagnant’ under his watch.

“Is he going to light it up at Everton? Is he going to take them to the next level? Personally I don’t think he will. Sorry Everton fans!” Pennant continued.

“He’s a legend at Liverpool for that famous game, coming back from 3-0 down in the Champions League, which was Gerrard-driven 100 per cent and I know that.

‘After Liverpool you look where he’s been… Newcastle he didn’t really set them alight, he kept them afloat.

“I just feel he’s going to be a little bit stagnant at Everton.”

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