Liverpool fans seeking refuge from the miseries of the present should pick themselves up a copy of the Sunday Times, which features an interview with Didi Hamann in which the German recalls what made Rafa Benitez successful at Liverpool. (For fans of other clubs, the interview does also feature a pretty accurate dissection of Liverpool's current travails).
Hamann had a good relationship with Benitez, unlike his midfield colleague Steven Gerrard. The captain twice almost left Liverpool while Benitez in charge, as the Spaniard refused to indulge his captain as, say, Brendan Rogers subsequently did.
Gerrard is intelligent enough to call Benitez the best manager he worked under, but in his most recent autobiography, he recalled how coldly Benitez treated him at Liverpool.
Rafa Benitez Relationship with Steven Gerrard
I can pick up the phone and speak to all of my previous Liverpool managers, except for Rafa. It's a shame because we shared the biggest night of our careers - the 2005 Champions League victory in Istanbul - yet there is no bond between us.
On a basic human level I prefer a likeable manager, such as Gerard Houllier or Brendan Rodgers, but in terms of football I really don't mind working with a colder man.
An emotionless and distant relationship with the likes of Rafa Benitez and Fabio Capello can sometimes produce more success.
While hindsight has allowed Gerrard reflect on their relationship in these terms, such perceived apathy twice almost drove Gerrard into the loving arms of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.
Hamann has revealed that this coldness towards Gerrard was a definite tactic on the part of Benitez. Speaking to Jonathan Northcroft, Hamann believes that Benitez was worried that Gerrard would overly-dominate the team:
He'd read the team out: Sami, Carra, Didi, Xabi, Luis...and Gerrard.
It was so obvious to me. I don't know if anyone else picked it up. I think Rafa's worry was that Stevie would become bigger than the club and that was the point he was making.
As cold as this was, Benitez did encourage conviviality. Hamann humorously recalls the manager's first few days at Anfield:
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, here's the united nations...from now on I don't want you to sit beside the same person twice. And the first person doesn't get up before the last finishes dinner. It's about respect.
Hamann recalls how this brought him closer to Harry Kewell:
I don't think I'd ever spoken to him. Not a bad lad, just not my cup of tea. 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'.
Read the full interview in today's Sunday Times.