Speaking ahead of the Premier League season, new Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino has been gushing in his praise for Rafa Benitez.
Pellegrino played under Rafa Benitez at Valencia before then following him to Liverpool.
Then after ending his playing days, Pellegrino returned to Anfield as first-team coach and then later worked with the Spaniard again at Inter Milan.
The Saints boss says that ‘Rafa was one of the people who changed a little bit the way that the managers teach the player’.
The Newcastle boss’ former assistant insisting that ‘Rafa was different’ and that he ‘asked the players how they felt and he completely changed the mentality’.
As a player and as a coach, Mauricio Pellegrino insists that working with Benitez ‘was like a Masters’.
With far less financial backing this summer than expected, Newcastle fans are hoping that this Rafa magic can be worked on the pre-existing squad and the five players who have arrived on what appear low/bargain transfer fees in this current market.
Mauricio Pellegrino talking to The Telegraph:
“Rafa was one of the people who changed a little bit the way that the managers teach the player.
“When I was a player we were always told: ‘You have to do this, you have to do that, you have to tackle, to defend’. But Rafa was different.
“Rafa asked the players how they felt and he completely changed the mentality.
“At a pedagogic (The study of the methods and activities of teaching) level Rafa was the best coach in my life.
“In terms of being a professional also, it was really nice to work with him as a player and then his assistant for three years at Liverpool and Inter Milan. For me it was like a Masters.
“We were 15 days preparing for the (2005 Champions League) final, preparing how we press, how we attack, set pieces and in 30 minutes they killed us (Pellegrino couldn’t play as he was cup-tied but watched the game from the sidelines).
“And Rafa changed everything. For this reason there is something more important than organisation and planning – it is imagination.
“We played with three defenders! We never played with three defenders before but we had to control Crespo and Shevchenko better and maybe it allowed us to be stronger in the middle.
“We played 3-4-3 and we scored three goals and then we changed again and Steven Gerrard played at full-back.”