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Fascinating story on Rafa Benitez told by Isaac Hayden

“It was at the Rosewood hotel in London and there was a big bowl of chocolates on the table. All of a sudden, he got two big handfuls of them and he lined them up in formation. He started asking me questions. ‘Right, if the ball came in from here and the centre-halves are here, where would you be?’ Sometimes, he said: ‘Brilliant.’ Other times, he said: ‘No. That’s a very English answer.’ It was like a coaching session at the first meeting. After it, I told my agent: ‘I don’t care what it takes. I just want to make this transfer happen.’

“He’s literally obsessed with it. He played that position himself. He wants to talk non-stop. I could play really well and he’ll never say: ‘Well played.’ He will always tell me I was out of position by two yards in a particular situation. It’s just how he is. You have to be bang on it in every way.

“I’ve moved out now. I’d get my dinner from a restaurant around the corner, which did lovely chicken and pasta dishes, and I’d collect it after training. He’d come home at the same time and he used to catch me as I got out of my car. One time, I was sitting in the car, waiting and waiting for him to go up in the lift but he was waiting for me. My food was getting cold. He’d just want to talk about football for half an hour.”

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