Fire and Ice: Klopp and Rafa Benitez take very different approaches to man-management

Liverpool take on Newcastle with both managers starting to make their mark

BY Raf Diallo 15:00 Friday 22 April 2016, 15:00 22 Apr 2016

Liverpool's Dejan Lovren, left, and Liverpool's head coach Juergen Klopp celebrate after winning the Europa League quarterfinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool FC and Borussia Dortmund in Liverpool, England, Thursday, April 14, 2016 . (AP Photo/Jon Super)

In terms of story to plug a book, Jerzy Dudek's tale about Rafa Benitez will likely do just that for sales.

Liverpool's 2005 Champions League-winning keeper stopped seeing eye to eye with the Reds' former manager as he began to be phased out to pave the way for his successor Pepe Reina.

"To be completely honest, I genuinely considered punching Rafa in the face. Then the consequences of doing so flashed through my mind. Would he let me go? Or would it just lead to a massive media scandal? Surely I couldn't stay if I gave him a smack?" he recalls in passages serialised in The Mirror.

"Punching a Liverpool manager who had won the European Cup only a few months earlier wouldn't have looked too good on the CV, I guess, but I was still angry."

Dudek did underline his overall respect for Benitez but man-management has never been known to be the Newcastle manager's strongest suit.

That's in stark contrast to Jurgen Klopp's whose Liverpool side he will face this Saturday.

Klopp appears to be the passionate and affable type manager that players would run through brick walls for - although his on-pitch dressing down of Christian Benteke met some mild criticism due to its public nature.

But the perception has grown from a suspicion to a certainty that Benteke is not the type of player Klopp wants to build around, thus seeing the Belgian leave for pastures new would not be considered a loss for the manager. 

His methods which involve pressing and an increase in energy and work-rate do seem to be paying off with six wins from their last eight Premier League fixtures and putting fire in the players' bellies is part of that process.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez (left) and Steven Gerrard during a Training Session at Melwood Training Ground, Liverpool. Picture by: Peter Byrne / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Benitez, like his more distant man-management style, has brought about a slow burning improvement to Newcastle, with the team seeming to be a little bit more organised based on the 3-0 win over Swansea and the 1-1 draw against Manchester City.

It dovetails into a personality which saw him remain unpopular with the Real Madrid squad he led at the start of the season - at least that was the speculation from the outside - with his colder exterior having even been noted by some of his former key players at Liverpool.

Steven Gerrard was his captain for so long, yet he has admitted that "there is no bond" with the manager in comparison to previous coaches.

"Our working relationship was ultra-professional and his frostiness drove me to become a better player. I had a hunger to earn a compliment from him - but also a hunger to let him know he really needed me as a player. We were like fire and ice," he said in his autobiography.

"On a basic human level I prefer a likeable manager, such as Gerard Houllier or Brendan Rodgers, but in terms of football I really don't mind working with a colder man. An emotionless and distant relationship with the likes of Rafa Benítez and Fabio Capello can sometimes produce more success."

Speaking to Newstalk's Team 33 recently in Dublin, The Guardian's Spanish football expert Sid Lowe stated of Benitez's success pre-Liverpool that "Rafa Benitez's success at Valencia possibly wasn't so much innovation but insistence. Players always describe him as a pesado - hard work, heavy-going - but extremely successful." 

It can be very successful in the more analytical and structured style that Benitez favours, instead of the "heavy metal" personality-driven pace that Klopp wants his players to keep.

So to paraphrase Gerrard, they're "like fire and ice".


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