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Liverpool Fallout: Defender Fumed at Benitez After Costly Decision

"I didn’t hate the team. I hated Rafa."

 

Liverpool’s Champions League victory in 2005 went down as one of the most famous comebacks in sporting history as Rafa Benitez guided his side to turn around a 3-0 deficit against AC Milan in the final to be crowned champions of Europe.

Almost twenty years later, one of his players, a boyhood Liverpool fan, has shared that one of the greatest achievements in the club’s history was also a bittersweet moment, as his manager was left out of the matchday squad at the very last minute.

Bittersweet Victory

This player was Stephen Warnock, who, despite stating he had massive respect for his manager, spoke his mind when he appeared on the Under the Cosh podcast. 

After the Spaniard had named Warnock in the 18-man matchday team, he called his family and told them to book plane tickets to Istanbul to watch him play in the Champions League final. 

An appearance that would have seen each of the 18 players receive £200,000 if they won and £100,000 if they lost. A match that Benitez and his Liverpool side went on to win and one that has gone down in history.

The elation was short-lived after Warnock received a phone call from his manager’s assistant, Pako Ayestaran, informing him that it was a “mistake” and he was no longer included in the team. 

This was despite the left-back having been involved in all of the matchday squads in the competition in the lead-up to the final and having made four appearances during the tournament.

“I didn’t hate the team. I hated Rafa”.

Warnock said on the podcast that he also called his ex-manager a “f****** coward” for not calling him up himself to tell him the bad news and described the way he was treated as an “absolute disgrace”.

From left-back to left out

After the news, the Liverpool academy graduate was left out of the team, out of pocket and out of the celebrations too. 

Warnock flew out to Turkey to watch his boyhood club play in the final of the biggest competition of them all, to only be forced to watch his side play from the stands. 

This was followed by having to watch the trophy parade around his home city at his home on his TV, live on Sky Sports. 

‘I remember that night just going to bed and they said, “right, the plane leaves at this time in the morning to go for the parade in Liverpool”. And then they changed it and said, “all the squad who were involved, the 18, and their wives or girlfriends.”

‘So they put all them together, bearing in mind they’d been on our flight coming over, the wives and girlfriends, and we flew back separately. Missed the parade, I watched it on Sky Sports.

‘Our flight was late coming in. The lads literally landed at Liverpool Airport, got ferried to the buses and then just started the parade. I just remember thinking “what a s***show”.’

Warnock made 67 appearances across all competitions for the Reds after Benitez gave him his debut in a 1-1 draw against Tottenham in 2004. 

He went on to play for the club for three years, before leaving in 2007 for Blackburn Rovers.

 

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