Soccer

Benitez may have already caused major Gerrard problem if he becomes Celtic boss

Rafa Benitez may have already caused his biggest problem as Celtic manager – by being the inspiration behind Steven Gerrard.

The former Liverpool boss is set to take over at Celtic with Neil Lennon on the brink of losing his job.

Benitez quit his role at Chinese Super League club Dalian Professional on Saturday, but announced his immediate intention to return to management in the UK.

He wanted to return to his adopted home over Covid-19 fears.

It emerged in the early hours of Sunday morning that Benitez was being lined up for the Celtic job, as first reported by Mirror Football.

Celtic are currently 23 points behind Rangers in the Scottish Premiership table, with Gerrard's side thriving.

And Gerrard has previously admitted that he has been having tactical phone calls with Benitez – meaning the Spaniard may have already given Celtic's biggest rivals an edge.

When Gerrard took the job at Rangers in 2018, he admitted that as he could not turn to Brendan Rodgers, who was then Gers boss, he would speak to Benitez.

“As my former manager he would have been someone I leaned on just starting in management,” Gerrard said.

“I think it is difficult to do that now. Look, I had a good relationship [with Rodgers] when it was captain and manager but we never socialised beyond the training ground.

"You would exchange texts and speak, but it was not like you went for dinner or met for coffee.

“Last week I was on the phone to Rafa and had a few conversations. I spoke to him for about 20 minutes, talking about certain teams.

"I have spoken to Gareth Southgate while doing my pro-licence.

"I still speak to Alex Inglethorpe [the Liverpool academy director] quite a bit, so yes, Brendan would also have been one of those people.

“Because of the rivalry he would not want to tell me anything and I would not want to tell him anything. It is impossible to have that relationship with him."

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