Pako Ayestarán has been talking about his time working alongside Rafa Benitez at Liverpool.
Between 2004 and 2007, Ayestarán was Rafa’s right-hand man at Anfield before their close friendship ended following a series of rifts. Benitez accused him of “betrayal” by talking to other clubs behind his back, something that Ayestarán has always denied, and the duo eventually parted company after working together for 12 years.
In an interview with The Daily Mail, Ayestarán recalls how the duo changed things at Anfield and were given a little help along the way by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson!
Ayestarán said: “We helped English football evolve. The players were a bit surprised by the level of monitoring and control.
“We were taking decisions for them over many facets of where they’d been used to be left alone – diet, training, hours of sleep.
“Rafa started building a database of players. He has what can only be described as an obsession – in a good way – over control and being right across things. The idea of worldwide scouting was quite new but he had this database of over 10,000 players, which was new for the time.
“It was training, factors that influence recovery and recuperation, charts of exactly how many minute a player had played over a season. We dug our man-made ‘Pako Hills’, three mounds with different gradients, at the club’s training ground for stamina and resistance training.”
A few years earlier, Ayestarán reveals that the duo had received a special invitation from Old Trafford.
“We were between jobs in 2000, so we went to visit Manchester United,” he said. “Ferguson let Rafa and I watch his first-team training sessions with Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, everyone in that great Treble team. At that time, it wasn’t as normal to let foreign coaches come over to observe. It was very kind.”
Turning back to his time at Liverpool, Ayestarán added: “At Liverpool, I loved it from day one. It’s the feeling of belonging to a club, to a community.
“I was in Liverpool Lime Street and people were coming up to me, saying thank you, thank you for coming. I’m thinking ‘f***! I was in Valencia for many years and I’m only stopped in the street to be criticised and then I come here and they are saying thank you before I have even started.
“After I left Liverpool, one of the things I said was that I would not go to direct rivals. When Jose Mourinho was sacked, Avram Grant called me while at Chelsea and asked me to join his technical team. It was a great opportunity but I felt it would be wrong.”
Ayestarán still lives on the Wirral, just around the corner from Benítez. The duo didn’t speak for 6 years but thankfully they’re in contact again.
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