His finest hour came under the reign of Rafa Benitez but Jerzy Dudek isn’t the Newcastle boss’s biggest fan – even if he does acknowledge that he’s something of a ‘genius’. The pair worked together at Liverpool to rather miraculous effect with Dudek putting in a legendary shift in the shoot-out that secured the Istanbul triumph.
His stock should never have been higher than after those heroics that secured the Champions League trophy but instead Benitez opted to bring in Pepe Reina from Villarreal, demoting Dudek to reserve goalkeeper.
In an extract from his new book, Jerzy Dudek: A Big Pole In Our Goal, published by the Mirror, he writes about how Benitez could be cold and distant – and about how he wanted to punch him in the face.
“He [Benitez] 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.”
Seeing that he was going to be spending the rest of his Liverpool days on the bench, Dudek wanted to take up Cologne’s interest but the club told him that Benitez wasn’t negotiating with them. This made Dudek angry.
“As soon as training had finished, I stormed over to him and ripped my gloves off in an aggressive manner. I was so angry that the lads said later the aggression was pouring out of me. I raised my voice.
“The lads could see I was fuming, so all hung around to see what would happen — footballers love seeing a bit of confrontation on the training ground!
“I was furious with him, absolutely fuming, and in my head I could hear a devilish voice saying ‘Punch him in the face – punch him in the face and he’ll let you go to Germany’.
“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?
“I don’t know how, but I managed to stop myself.
“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.
““You said you’d help me. You said you’d do everything to get a deal through. You didn’t mean it. You promised you would help me but now I have a concrete offer you’ve not kept your word.””
Read the full extract from Dudek’s autobiography by clicking here.