Rafael Benitez responds to critics with Champions League win reminder
Napoli boss Rafael Benitez has responded to suggestions that his reputation is built on being a cup coach by talking up one of the most defining moments of his career -- when he led Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2005.
After winning the Europa League with Chelsea in 2013 -- having previously won the UEFA Cup with Valencia in 2004 -- Benitez arrived in Naples and crowned his first year in charge by claiming the Coppa Italia. He has subsequently won the Italian Super Cup this season, but has so far not delivered the results the Napoli fans want in Serie A.
Benitez's side have slipped to fifth in the table with 10 games of the season to go, and even if they win the Coppa Italia or the Europa League this term, the Spaniard's two-year reign may not be remembered so fondly by supporters who are craving a first Scudetto since 1990.
His Champions League win with Liverpool in Istanbul ensures him a place in Liverpool fans' hearts, though, and Benitez reflected on that dramatic night -- which saw his side come from 3-0 down to win on penalties -- during an interview with Gazzetta TV.
"I'd written 2-0 down on my notepad and was heading into the dressing room where I wanted to lecture my players, in English, which wasn't fantastic," Benitez, who won two La Liga titles with Valencia, said. "Then [Hernan] Crespo scored the third goal and it all became even more difficult.
"All the players were sat with their heads down and I ordered them to lift their heads because they'd done so much to get there and it made no sense to give up after just one half. I told them to get one goal and the game would open up again, then the fans had to do the rest.
"That's what happened, in addition to a tactical change. [Winning] cups is all about the moment and the individual ability -- both of the coach and his players."
Benitez believes there is also a more level playing field in a cup competition, which can also explain his successes.
"The problem is there are clubs who have more money and stronger squads and they therefore have more chances of winning a league," Benitez said. "In the cup it's different because it depends on the players and the coach and other things.
"I've been fortunate to work for some top-level clubs in my time, but always in leagues where there were two or three clubs who had more money."
Napoli face Lazio for a place in the Coppa Italia final on April 8, having drawn the semifinal first leg 1-1.
They must then overcome the challenge of Bundesliga high-flyers Wolfsburg in the Europa League quarterfinals as Benitez looks to land the trophy for the third time in his career.