An article in El País contrasts the character and personality of the two coaches in tonight's Champions League clash between Real Madrid and Liverpool.
Four players who played under both men give their opinions, and it makes for fascinating reading, especially if, as has been rumoured on occasion, Rafa Benítez makes the move at some time back to Spain to coach Real Madrid, where he spent over a decade as a player and then coach of the youth teams.
José Miguel González, Josemi, spent six months recovering from a knee injury in his only season at Liverpool in 2004-05. Rafa Benítez never asked how he was. However, Juande Ramos, who coached him at Málaga, used to talk to him constantly.
"Juande is a better person", says Josemi, now at Mallorca. "Rafa does his own thing. He worries about the game, studies the opponent's moves... but he doesn't do much on a day to day basis with his players. With Juande, those on the subs bench are happier, because he looks after them and constantly makes comparisons to put pressure on the starting 11."
"Rafa used an expression we found painful: 'A substitute with a substitute is more of a substitute'," says Palop, who played under Benítez at Valencia before ending up at Sevilla under Ramos.
"Benítez is a great coach, but on a personal level I felt I didn't exist; I was only there to train. Never a word to see how I felt. He would surround himself with the most important players and completely ignore the rest." Palop adds that this contrasted with Juande, who "bonded with the players and was ready to give a chance to everyone without making a distinction."
The Liverpool captain, Steven Gerrard, shares this view in his autobiography: "Benítez is not cold towards me, just detached. Rafa doesn't think he needs close bonds with players, even the captain. But respect flows naturally between me and Rafa: he's the manager, I'm a player. Everything Rafa says and does is designed to strengthen Liverpool. Twenty minutes after I lifted the FA Cup, Rafa was downstairs talking to the press and telling them Liverpool could have won it without me. "I don’t think we would have lost if we didn't have Stevie," he said, "because we have played a lot of games without him." I'd scored two good goals and banged in a penalty, which was not a bad afternoon's work, but I understood Rafa. The gaffer was not belittling my contribution, as some people thought, he was just saying that the team is everything, that his number eight is simply a cog in the Liverpool machine. Fair enough."
"Juande gives you a lot more freedom, both inside and outside the pitch", adds Mallorca midfielder Martí, who played with Benítez in his stint at Tenerife and then with Juande at Sevilla. "They're both natural winners, incredibly intelligent and able to adapt to their squad and their opponents. Juande always wants to score a second after the first, whereas Benítez is more calculating."
Palop says that Benítez "does not miss a thing. He gives you a lot of information, sometimes too much. One day he told us everything about the Basle keeper. Juande tells you what you need to know and no more. But Benítez always had an ace up his sleeve with his lineups. Juande is more predictable".
César, the Valencia goalkeeper, is grateful to Benítez for giving him his Primera División debut at Valladolid. Juande on the other hand brought him to Tottenham Hotspur for his Premiership debut. "They're both extremely hardworking," he says "I met Rafa when we were both very young. He was ahead of his time, both with his analyses and in his use of the computer."
"Juande is a great guy. Over two legs he's very dangerous, as he showed at Tottenham, winning the Carling Cup, and at Sevilla, with back-to-back UEFA cups. Real Madrid will be making a big mistake if they let him go," concludes César.