It was good to see Steven Gerrard, in his new autobiography, castigate Rafa Benitez for the way he, as Liverpool manager, disregarded the excellent and hugely influential midfielder Xabi Alonso, selling him to Real Madrid, the club he now manages.
Since it made no tactical sense, one assumed at the time that there was something personal about it, that Benitez had simply taken a dislike to Alonso, which had nothing to do with his abilities.
For myself, I was never an admirer of Benitez himself when he managed Liverpool. How lucky he was to have Gerrard save him and his ill-chosen team in the European Cup final in Istanbul.
For reasons which made no sense whatsoever, Benitez had done nothing to counter Kaka, then the mainspring of the Milan attack, who simply ran riot in the first half. After half-time uproar in the Liverpool dressing room, Gerrard saw that the German midfielder Dietman Hamann was belatedly put on the field, to mark Kaka, which he dully did to crucial effect. Liverpool wiped out the deficit, inspired by Gerrard himself, and as we know went on to win it on penalties.
Gerrard has always seemed the quintessence of the city of Liverpool itself, yet how near did he come to joining Chelsea? The rumours were, though never substantiated, that all was nearly done and dusted when certain local hard men “advised” against it.
Then there was that extraordinary episode when Gerrard was being pursued by a local gangster demanding money, only for a still bigger gangster to warn him off. Then, when Gerrard’s saviour was up on trial, Gerard’s father was ready to put in a plea for him in gratitude for protecting his son. In the event the gangster simply absconded, though ultimately he was re-arrested.
Gerrard himself was cleared in a Liverpool court of assaulting a disc jockey, after returning to Liverpool following a superb display at Newcastle United. The man was allegedly bruised but Gerrard insisted he had acted only in self-defence and he was believed.