Rafa Benitez was quizzed about his weight in a bizarre press conference in Bucharest, prior to Europa League last 32 return leg with Unirea Urziceni.

The Liverpool manager has occasionally complained of harsh treatment from the English press but has never experienced anything like the line of interrogation adopted by Romania’s media, in a first-floor suite of the team’s hotel barely an hour-and-a-half after their charter jet touched down at Bucharest Airport.

He had already been grilled about travel arrangements that have been viewed in some quarters as a sign of disrespect towards Unirea, when local journalists turned up the heat with a string of provocative questions.

One asked how it felt to be taunted about the sack by opposing fans, another wanted to know the salary he would demand to coach a Romanian club and a third told him he had piled on the pounds since Liverpool’s Champions’ League final triumph over AC Milan nearly five years ago.

To Benitez’s credit, he answered each one with a broad smile after stoutly defending his decision to delay departure from Liverpool until the middle of the afternoon, thereby foregoing the chance to train at Thursday night’s venue, the Steaua Stadium in Bucharest.

The inquisition began with a suggestion that, by flying in late and heading back to Liverpool straight after the final whistle, he was taking the threat of the Romanian champions lightly.

‘Not at all,’ he replied. ‘I just had to work out what would be the best preparation for the team, and I just felt that working on formations and set-pieces at Melwood before, rather than after, a three-hour flight would be the right option.

‘As for after the game, if it goes to extra-time, the plane will wait, because it is a charter. Don’t make the mistake of thinking we are taking anything for granted.’

Unruffled, the under-pressure Spaniard claimed: ‘I don’t listen to them. When you are on the sidelines, watching your team, you are not aware of anything else. You are in the zone and concentrating only on what is happening on the pitch. Anyway, I don’t always understand. My English still isn’t all that good.’

Benitez was just as diplomatic over another direct query about what ‘fee’ he would expect to take over a side in Romania.

‘It’s not just about money,’ he said. ‘It’s about being at the right club, and I feel I’ve got the right job now at Liverpool.’

With press officer Ian Cotton trying to wind up proceedings, the best was saved until last as the gentleman who brought up the subject of sack-related chants had the final word.

‘Mr.Benitez,’ he said. ‘The last time I saw you was at the 2005 Champions’ League final, and your, erm, silhouette seems to have changed since then. Why is that?’

Breaking out into a grin, Benitez responded: ‘It is the stress of having to answer so many questions from the press. Thank you and goodnight.’

Read the article on Mail on Sunday

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez gets grilled by Romania’s press and asked: Why are you so fat?

Rafa Benitez was quizzed about his weight in a bizarre press conference in Bucharest, prior to Europa League last 32 return leg with Unirea Urziceni.

The Liverpool manager has occasionally complained of harsh treatment from the English press but has never experienced anything like the line of interrogation adopted by Romania’s media, in a first-floor suite of the team’s hotel barely an hour-and-a-half after their charter jet touched down at Bucharest Airport.

He had already been grilled about travel arrangements that have been viewed in some quarters as a sign of disrespect towards Unirea, when local journalists turned up the heat with a string of provocative questions.

One asked how it felt to be taunted about the sack by opposing fans, another wanted to know the salary he would demand to coach a Romanian club and a third told him he had piled on the pounds since Liverpool’s Champions’ League final triumph over AC Milan nearly five years ago.

To Benitez’s credit, he answered each one with a broad smile after stoutly defending his decision to delay departure from Liverpool until the middle of the afternoon, thereby foregoing the chance to train at Thursday night’s venue, the Steaua Stadium in Bucharest.

The inquisition began with a suggestion that, by flying in late and heading back to Liverpool straight after the final whistle, he was taking the threat of the Romanian champions lightly.

‘Not at all,’ he replied. ‘I just had to work out what would be the best preparation for the team, and I just felt that working on formations and set-pieces at Melwood before, rather than after, a three-hour flight would be the right option.

‘As for after the game, if it goes to extra-time, the plane will wait, because it is a charter. Don’t make the mistake of thinking we are taking anything for granted.’

Unruffled, the under-pressure Spaniard claimed: ‘I don’t listen to them. When you are on the sidelines, watching your team, you are not aware of anything else. You are in the zone and concentrating only on what is happening on the pitch. Anyway, I don’t always understand. My English still isn’t all that good.’

Benitez was just as diplomatic over another direct query about what ‘fee’ he would expect to take over a side in Romania.

‘It’s not just about money,’ he said. ‘It’s about being at the right club, and I feel I’ve got the right job now at Liverpool.’

With press officer Ian Cotton trying to wind up proceedings, the best was saved until last as the gentleman who brought up the subject of sack-related chants had the final word.

‘Mr.Benitez,’ he said. ‘The last time I saw you was at the 2005 Champions’ League final, and your, erm, silhouette seems to have changed since then. Why is that?’

Breaking out into a grin, Benitez responded: ‘It is the stress of having to answer so many questions from the press. Thank you and goodnight.’

Read the article on Mail on Sunday

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