Didi Hamann has told the Times about how Rafa Benitez literally forced his squad to get along with one another, which helped forge the team spirit which saw us win the Champions League in the Spaniard’s debut season in charge.
The German had been at Anfield since 1999 when Benitez arrived and was very much part of the furniture.
Australian winger Harry Kewell signed in 2003, and according to Hamann – the pair didn’t see eye to eye. Not for any particular reason, but the German claimed he hadn’t had a conversation with the former Leeds prodigy for about a year.
Benitez made sure that changed, however:
“Rafa said, ‘I’ve been here three days. The last person comes to dinner and the first’s already gone. Here’s the English [clique], here’s the French and here’s the united nations… from now on I don’t want to see you sit next to the same person twice. And the first doesn’t get up before the last finishes dinner. It’s about respect.'”
“I don’t think I’d ever spoken to him (until Benitez arrived). Not a bad lad, just not my cup of tea,” Hamann says.
“So I sat down next to Harry, ‘How’s it going H? Missus? Kids? How old are they now, are they in school?’
“Twenty minutes later I’m in my room thinking, ‘He’s actually all right’.
“I’m not saying that’s the reason we won the Champions League, but Rafa started a thought process in everybody that day.”
Good work, Rafa!
Interestingly, Kewell started the Champions League final but put in a shoddy performance and limped off injured very early on, while Hamann’s experience was very different.
He came on at half-time and shored up central midfield, giving us the platform that allowed us to get back into the game.
We bagged three in the second, held on in extra-time to get to the shoot-out and Hamann bagged his penalty, too. For this reason, he’s an LFC legend.