Benitez promises handshake with old rival Warnock
COBHAM, England (AFP) –
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez insists he is willing to shake hands with Leeds United boss Neil Warnock at Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final in a bid to end their simmering feud.
Benitez has clashed with Warnock on several occasions in the past, with the most high-profile incident coming in 2007 when the Spaniard sent out a weakened Liverpool team against Fulham.
Fulham went on to beat Liverpool and in the process pushed Sheffield United, then managed by Warnock, closer to eventual relegation from the Premier League.
Warnock said that he would “never forgive” Benitez and he poured more fuel on the fire this week when he revealed the pair’s last contact came shortly after that incident when he received an email from the Spaniard’s lawyers warning of possible legal action were he to continue to criticise their client.
But with their latest touchline showdown looming on Wednesday, Benitez tried to draw a line under the issue at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
Asked if he would shake hands with Warnock ahead of the match, Benitez said: “I saw that he said he has an email from me threatening to sue him. It’s true, but I didn’t remember it.
“I will concentrate on my job and hopefully we can talk about football, which is best for the fans and everyone. We need to leave things on the pitch.
“I’m professional so I won’t have any problem (shaking Warnock’s hand). There will be a lot of people watching us, so we have to behave.
“Every person has their ideas of each other. I will try to do my job and won’t be involved in anything, but what I will say is that the league is 38 games and not just one match.”
Warnock also seems keen to move on, although he stopped short of agreeing to a pre-match handshake.
“Enough water’s passed under the bridge,” Warnock said. “It’s one of those things that disappoints you in life and you have to get on with it really.
“You get disappointments in every walk of life and I’ve made my feelings clear over the last few years — and nothing will change that.
“I think it (the email) had his name on, I think it was his solicitor (lawyer) who was threatening legal action and I’ve got it in a scrapbook at home.”
Meanwhile, Benitez wouldn’t be drawn on the future of Frank Lampard, who is likely to captain Chelsea at Elland Road but looks set to leave the club by the end of the season.
Lampard, who is out of contract in June and has yet to sign a new deal, could even be sold during the January transfer window, with QPR and Monaco linked with the England midfielder.
“Frank is fully committed in every training session and every game. He’s an important player for us,” Benitez said.
“But I can’t say too much about what he feels or doesn’t feel. He’s doing well and I’m happy about his attitude.”