Football: Once the Sore Heads Heal after Athens Defeat, the Hard Work Really Starts for Benitez; CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ALL THE COMMENT AND ANALYSIS ON ATHENS FINAL COMMENT

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), May 24, 2007 | Go to article overview

Football: Once the Sore Heads Heal after Athens Defeat, the Hard Work Really Starts for Benitez; CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ALL THE COMMENT AND ANALYSIS ON ATHENS FINAL COMMENT


Byline: By NICK SMITH

JUST like two years ago, Liverpool is waking up this morning with a sore head. But this time it's pounding with thoughts on how to recover from a rare trophy-less season - a very different kind of Champions League final hangover.

Not that last night's party should be forgotten.

It proved that centuries later they still come to Athens to worship the Gods and it's the kind of status that, until last night, was well deserved for Reds boss Rafael Benitez and his team of courageous Olympians.

But the stuff about heroes is just mythology.

All Greek to the harsh realities of modern-day football.

Because unlike the last lot of legendary figures to adorn these shores centuries ago, Liverpool are not superhuman.

They merely extol to perfection the virtues that their manager insists are the keys to his phenomenal European success.

And they seemed to be doing it just fine again last night too - but sometimes it's not enough.

Sometimes the trophy cabinet is just destined to be bare.

Even when things don't go as disastrously wrong as they did in Istanbul in 2005, the Liverpool manager is still as vulnerable to the cold hard facts of football as anyone else.

It just goes to show that he's not hiding some special formula that creates mythological monsters the ancient Greeks would be proud of.

The Spaniard is simply single-minded and ruthless in his approach, which is why a rebuilding of his squad was always scheduled for this summer whatever the outcome of last night's attempts to bring a sixth European Cup to An-field.

Benitez's unflinching insistence on hard work and good staff just doesn't give the media the soundbites they need when trying to crack the Spaniard's codes.

It's just all too dull.

You could sense the collective groan in the heat of the Press conference room on Tuesday when Benitez delivered his all-too-simple and straightforward verdict on how he conquers the continent.

But in the end he's not being boring, evasive or dismissive of the question. He is being honest.

Because working hard isn't all about rolling up the sleeves, clenching the fist and peeling a sweat-soaked shirt off when the shift is finished.

Concentration, discipline and application are just as rewarding in any working environment.

Rather than search for a God-of-war Hades type individual, he would favour the more philosophical and studious edge of Greece's ancient history. If he preached the ways of Socrates, it wouldn't involve flamboyant Brazilian playmakers.

But some facts are inescapable and Milan know only too well from the experience of 2005 that they don't come if superiority isn't capitalised on - a reality that doesn't discriminate against anyone.

And it was early Liverpool superiority that seemed to be fitting on a night that began so brightly.

The supporters descended on the ancient city with only one wish in mind - that their heroes would make the sort of history they would never trade in for the type this ancient city is famous for.

After all, theirs is not one carved out of mythology and fantasy. …

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