Benitez: Winning Champions League changed my life

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said winning the Champions League with the club changed his life.

The Spaniard guided the club to a famous penalty shoot-out win over AC Milan in 2005 after they trailed 3-0 at half-time.

Thirteen years later and the memories of that night in Istanbul still live fresh in the memory of Benitez, who reflected on his time at Anfield.

"It changed my life in England," the Newcastle United manager told UK newspapers.

"To win the league with Valencia in Spain after 31 years changed my life. To win the UEFA Cup with Valencia changed my life, it changed everything.

"But to come to England and win the Champions League with a different team was massive.

"Maybe it will change everything for [Jurgen] Klopp in Liverpool. He's fine. He's an idol now, but he will be more than that."

Benitez is still lauded by Liverpool fans for his success, but believes the current squad – who face Real Madrid in the Champions League final on Saturday – are stronger than the team he won the competition with.

"I think this one is better," he said. "We achieved what we achieved – we talk about the 'Miracle of Istanbul', but this team is better.

"We had Stevie [Gerrard], of course, also some players with experience and quality, [Xabi] Alonso and [Dietmar] Hamann. We had players who worked hard; we had a very good balance.

"This team also has good balance, but the front three can make a difference on their own."

Liverpool's run to the final in 2017-18 has thrilled many and Benitez insists they could go one step further and lift the trophy again.

"The difference between the Premier League and the other leagues is the intensity of the games," he said.

"Liverpool and their offensive players, their midfield and their defence have the intensity to hurt you if they do it well.

"Real Madrid has the experience and the quality to match them, but Liverpool can do it. They have the energy, the passion and the desire."