Liverpool’s Champions League hero Jerzy Dudek has said that he wanted to punch ex-Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez in the face.
The Polish goalkeeper cemented his place in Liverpool history when he played a key role in the penalty shootout triumph over AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final. However, Dudek fell out with Benitez when he struggled to get any game time due to the arrival of Pepe Reina.
Writing in his autobiography, "Jerzy Dudek: A Big Pole In Our Goal," serialised in the Daily Mirror, Dudek explained how he and Benitez almost came to blows.
He said: "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?
"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."
Even though he fell apart with the Spaniard, Dudek still retained immense respect for Benitez.
"He has a great knowledge of football. He's not a fool who comes out with theories that are all talk. His problem is that he's not a great 'people person' so always encounters problems when managing a group because he is very cold and hard-faced in how he makes decisions.
"He kept a distance between himself and his players -- like there was an invisible wall there -- but it didn't stop him from being a genius of a coach."
“After the Champions League triumph, I felt he was treating me unfairly, but that’s how Rafa operated. He did everything so coldly, almost inhumanely, because he saw things as business.
He had to protect his interests, but it was hard to be on the receiving end of it. when I returned to Melwood I had a new rival - Jose ‘Pepe’ Reina, a Spanish international, had been signed from Villarreal for a reported £6million.
I wasn’t happy and went straight in to see Benitez, who tried to calm me down.
“It doesn’t mean that I’ll let you go."
“You don’t buy a player for so much money to leave him on the bench... Should I look for a new club or will you take care of selling me?”
“Okay, let’s wait for serious offers. Then we’ll start to talk money. We’ll find a good solution for everybody.”
“I loved being at Liverpool, but Benitez clearly didn’t want me.”Published 23 Apr 2016, 10:36 IST