The Rafael Benitez column: We don't need to respond to Fergie, we can let Liverpool success speak for itself

It has been very impressive to see how Suarez is showing what a dangerous player he is

What have you made of Sir Alex Ferguson’s comments about you in his recent autobiography?

The problem with answering on those comments about me - or about Steven Gerrard - is that it only adds to the publicity. All I can say is that at the time we were doing our best to defend our team and our club. We got a reaction. We did a good job. We were challenging well. They were good times for the club. We can let the things we did at Liverpool and the success we had make our answer for us. Beyond that, there is nothing more I think I can say

 

Who are the five stand-out players in the Premier League for you this season?

Well, I have to name a player at my former club. Luis Suarez. Everybody knows how he has a hunger for football and it has been very impressive to see the way that he is showing so soon – immediately - after coming back what a dangerous player he is. You will have to believe me when I say that it is not my connection with for Liverpool which makes me name Daniel Sturridge, too: a different sort of player but one who has confidence that comes with starting games. We have said several times already this season that strikers work off confidence and need to feel that they are an important part of the manager’s plans. These two have created the most dangerous striking partnership in the Premier League so far this season. Another striker who has had less attention but one who I have been impressed when I have seen him is Alvaro Negredo, the Spanish player at Manchester City. He has a very good left foot. I must name Wayne Rooney, of course. It is a few months since we talked about Southampton as the dark horses and I must talk about Adam Lallana, their captain, working together well with Rickie Lambert.

 

What have you made of Wayne Rooney’s return to form this season and how do you explain it?

He explains it himself! Everyone knows he has this level in his game. He is coming back and showing his level. Let us go back to our point about strikers being complex people sometimes – perhaps needing to prove something. He looks like he is wanting to show things because everybody has been talking, talking about his best being in the past. Robin van Persie has continued scoring, even though he has been struggling with full fitness, and that helps Rooney, too. Rooney is working well around van Persie, using his understanding of the game.

 

Why is it so difficult for an English team to copy the Barcelona system of play? Surely with good coaching and hard work this could be replicated?

The debate about needing to create a team that works through possession and kills other teams through possession is an interesting one. Everyone seems to think that if you don’t play the ball on the ground, you don’t play nice football. I don’t see it like that. The important thing is to play well and win games: do what you have to do to win games. Look at my Napoli team. We had 74 percent possession against Sassuolo in September and drew. We had 40 per cent possession against Fiorentina on Wednesday night and won 2-1. Possession is only important if you do well with it. Some teams don’t understand that to pass the ball is not the only way. If you give a manager three or four years to develop a winning style, with the right ideas then it doesn’t matter what that style is.

 

Who is the most important player for England as we head toward next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil?

Apart from Rooney, who will be outstanding if he can keep at this level, Steven Gerrard has the elite quality that very, very few players possess and it will be especially important because of the way England play. Playing a little bit deeper for England, he will be able dictate the tempo of games. Another of the qualities we can talk about is his ability to play the long balls to perfection, again and again. He can play short and long balls, over and over. That is important for any team but with England, who possess quick players up front, it can be especially useful.

 

How are you adapting to life in Naples?

It is an incredible place to work and because of the job we have had to do, it has taken time to get to see some of the ‘other’ Napoli, beyond the crazy football city. I visited Pompeii last week when my family came over to visit which was amazing, as any visitor to the ancient City in the shadow of Vesuvius will tell you. Since I last wrote, I have also paid a visit to Reggia di Caserta and the Teatro di San Carlos, next to the central Piazza del Plebiscit here. Another incredible experience at an auditorium where there has been such an incredible history of Italian opera. To any of you unfamiliar with Napoli, I recommend you get organised for a visit.

 

You are second in Serie A. Have you exceeded your own expectations with Napoli?

I would say the start is ‘not bad.’ We are 75 per cent strong and we can certainly get better. Roma are the surprise of the division, because they have won every game so far, and Juventus, who are up there with us, are very strong. We are growing. The understanding between the players is growing. Every week and every month we are doing things a bit better.

 

What did I read about the Napoli fans calling you ‘Rafè' 

You are right. The Napoli fans began calling me ‘Rafè’ when they were posting in the forums and if they prefer it because it is easier, then that is fine and it is good for me. The support here is incredible. There is an incredible passion among the fans. It has made me feel at home

 

Who have been the biggest influences on you as a manager?

There have been many and I will tell you about meeting one of them only last Wednesday in Florence, from where I’ve just returned with my Napoli team as I write this. Yesterday morning we visited Coverciano, the Italian federation’s training base which is located in the Tuscan countryside outside Florence, and I had the chance to meet the great Arrigo Sacchi. We talked a lot, about our ideas on football, ways of play, Spanish football and the Italian game. Of course, his ideas have always interested me, since the days he won back-to back European Cups with AC Milan and before. Another manager I have always followed is the Colombian Francisco Maturana – a football coach with great ideas, who I encourage you to make a study of. He is one of the greatest coaches to have come out of South America. Johan Cruyff is another whose developments I follow. Always, you try to take the best from all the great coaches

 

Who do you think should win the UEFA Coach of the Year award?

It is a strong shortlist* and I am very pleased to be on it. For me, the one who receives the award has to be someone with values and principles which go beyond just winning. For me, that has to be Jupp Heynckes who in his great career has set an example to a lot of people.

 

*The nominees are Carlo Ancelotti, Rafael Benitez, Vicente Del Bosque, Antonio Conte, Sir Alex Ferguson, Jupp Heynckes, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Arsene Wenger

Send your thoughts and questions to Rafa: Sport@independent.co.uk with "Ask Rafa" in the subject box.

Suggested Topics
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'