Stephen Warnock still hurt by 2005 Miracle of Istanbul; says Benitez had ‘no bottle’

Date published: Monday 25th May 2020 10:33

LONDON - APRIL 26: Rafael Benitez manager of Liverpool talks to defender Stephen Warnock during the Barclays Premiership match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Upton Park on April 26, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

Stephen Warnock says he “still hurts” after being controversially left out of Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League final squad.

The full-back has revealed his pent up anger at the way he was dropped by Rafa Benitez and how he and some of the other players were snubbed on the way back to Merseyside.

It is 15 years to the day that Benitez’s side triumphed in the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ after being 3-0 down to AC Milan. Liverpool were down and apparently out at half-time, but recovered to force extra-time and, eventually won on penalties.

For Warnock, 38, though the date leaves a sour taste after he was initially named in Benitez’s squad for the game.

However, Warnock never made the cut with Josemi replacing him in the squad without even a call from Benitez, which Warnock has claimed was “poor”.

“When I hear it described as being one of Liverpool’s greatest ever nights, it leaves a very sour taste,” Warnock told BBC Sport. “It still hurts now, actually – the way it was handled was absolutely shocking.

“I was in the original squad when the team sheet up was put up at the training ground a few days before the game, and I was absolutely ecstatic. Then a couple of hours later, I got a call from Rafa Benitez’s assistant, Pako Ayesteran, saying there had been a mistake. Josemi was in instead.




“Even that was poor – the fact that Rafa did not have the bottle to ring me himself. He did speak to me briefly on the pitch after the game, but I was not in the mood at all, I was still seething.

“I had been the same during the game. Don’t get me wrong, it was never to the point where I wanted them to lose, because Liverpool were my club and they were my team-mates out there, but it hurts when you are not involved and I was sitting there in the stands thinking about it the whole time. You almost switch off from what is happening in the game.

“If you look at the celebrations afterwards, a lot of people are on all the different photos but I am nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t bring myself to stand there, it just did not feel right. You feel like you have been let down.”

To add insult to injury, Warnock says he was also snubbed on the way back to the U.K. and that helped him make the decision to leave the club.

“The worst thing was the flight home, though,” he added. “They put the wives of those who had played on the plane, ahead of some players who had made key contributions in Europe that season, which was just shocking.

“We got back to John Lennon Airport on a later flight to the team and, when we landed, the victory parade had already started. You could not get to the bus because of the crowds, so I just went home. That was the moment I made my mind up that I had to leave the club.”

READ MORE: Rafa Benitez admits he made major Liverpool error in ‘Miracle of Istanbul’


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