Rafael Benitez sought to make his peace with Steven Gerrard yesterday after the Liverpool club captain declined to speak to him in the aftermath of a Merseyside derby in which he was substituted.
Benitez hinted at Gerrard's disgruntlement when he described on Saturday evening how he had "tried to talk to him" but that "it would be cleverer to analyse the reasons [for the 71st-minute substitution] later." That decision seems to have been Gerrard's and the Spaniard did not have the chance to approach him before the team gathered for training yesterday.
Benitez appears to have reiterated to Gerrard his point that the team is bigger than the England international. But there was a hint in what Benitez said after their conversation that Gerrard remained unconvinced. "After some time he'll understand that it was an idea and I was thinking about the best for the team," Benitez said.
Gerrard, who was substituted 20 minutes after his surging 70-yard run won Liverpool their equalising penalty and resulted in the first of two Everton red cards, also made his feelings quite clear yesterday when he said that he was "hurt and disappointed" at being "hooked" from the match – as he calls it – and at Goodison of all places.
"I'm a local lad so the derby is really important to me and I would have liked nothing better than to play the full game and to be on the pitch when we got the winner," Gerrard said. "I'll be speaking to the manager about it just to find out why I was substituted, but I won't be banging on his door or anything like that. We'll just have a chat and whatever is said will remain between us."
Any sense of bewilderment felt by Gerrard will not be an entirely new experience where his relationship with Benitez is concerned. The midfielder, who telegraphed his astonishment as he handed the armband to Jamie Carragher, relates in his autobiography his perception that the Spaniard does not praise his achievements much. "Doesn't the gaffer like me? Has he got something against me?" are the thoughts this gives rise to, he says. Gerrard seems to struggle with a management style in which, he says, Benitez considers his players "cogs in a machine". Benitez's insistence that he removed Gerrard because he was "playing with his heart, not his head" may do little to change that perception.
The controversies whipped up by Saturday's game played out well beyond Merseyside yesterday when the referee Mark Clattenburg – who incurred the wrath of Everton's manager, David Moyes, and his players for appearing to change yellow to red for Everton's Tony Hibbert after an intervention from Gerrard, and selecting yellow for Dirk Kuyt after a two-footed challenge on Phil Neville which even the Dutchman has admitted "looks bad" – was told he will not be refereeing a match this weekend.
The decision, by the Professional Game Match Board, was made amid indignation at Everton that Kuyt remained on the pitch to convert the winning penalty while Everton did not receive one after Jamie Carragher appeared to haul Joleon Lescott to the ground late on.
Liverpool fly to Turkey this morning for tomorrow's must-win Champions League match against Besiktas. Benitez should have the striker Fernando Torres and midfielder Xabi Alonso available.Reuse content