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Anfield mind game just so unsettling

Anfield mind game just so unsettling

Sep 14 2007

by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo

HOW do you get inside the head of Rafa Benitez? When even his own players can’t second guess the Premier League’s most inscrutable manager, how on earth can his managerial rivals hope to outwit him?

A starting point might be to recruit the services of a man who has worked hand in glove with Benitez for 11 years; a man who has shared his greatest triumphs and commiserated with his lowest troughs – a man who knows more about Benitez’s modus operandum than any other person.

Which is why speculation linking Pako Ayesteran with Chelsea is unsettling.

It may only be speculation.

But it’s worrying speculation, nevertheless.

On the three occasions when it has mattered most, Jose Mourinho has lost the tactical battle with Benitez.

In two Champions League semi-finals and an FA Cup semi-final, the dapper little Portuguese has been left crying into his Armani overcoat.

But what greater way of tapping into your greatest rival’s psyche than by hiring his closest confidante?

At present the rumours are little more than that.

For a start, there is no obvious place for Ayesteran on the Chelsea coaching staff.

The management roll call at Stamford Bridge has no fewer than four assistant managers – there’s Steve Clarke, the assistant manager/coach; Silvino Louro, assistant manager – goalkeeping coach; Baltemar Brito – assistant manager coach and Rui Faria – assistant manager fitness coach.

That’s in addition to Andre Villas, head opposition scout and first team coach, and the man whose arrival from Tottenham caused such a storm, Chief Scout and Director of Youth Development Frank Arnesen, plus 27 other coaches who come under the umbrella “Other Management.”

But Liverpool think the rumours are real enough.

Real enough to investigate the possibility of placing Ayesteran on indefinite gardening leave rather than terminate his contract immediately.

They’re scrutinising the situation intensely.

A Ferrari mechanic handing McClaren team plans for the season would be small fare if the Pako-Mourinho speculation proves founded.

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