Phil Thompson: Gerrard would relish battling Benitez at Celtic – he’d be a huge coup

Paddy's Football Ambassador Phil Thompson weighs up the mouth-watering prospect of Rafa Benitez succeeding Neil Lennon at Celtic.

Rafa Benitez going to Celtic is potentially a massive, massive coup for them. A manager of his quality, it would be huge to get him to go up to Scotland. It would be a massive statement.

He’s been all around and his family still reside in Merseyside, so it’s one thing that he’s following his heart and he loves to be involved with football, but also, you have to consider being as close to home as you can. Glasgow and Liverpool are almost twins – quite similar, not too far, and he’d be very, very welcome up there.

Steven Gerrard would absolutely relish that, too. There’d be a lot of meals out between those two when the opportunity comes back to meet other people and I’d imagine Stevie doesn’t have that sort of association with Neil Lennon.

But that’s the way you’ve got to understand Steven’s relationship with Rafa. He delivered some of his greatest performances under him. Yes, he played some good stuff under Gérard Houllier, but that stuff in 2005, 2006 under Rafa was extra, extra special.

It would be quite something for Scotland to see those two locking horns.

But, regardless of that, these two will want to win. Rafa and Stevie’s great relationship wouldn’t change the Celtic and Rangers rivalry. That relationship won’t change how much they want their side to win – won’t change the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers should it happen.

They’ll be as bitter as anybody when it comes along, the game, but when you walk away from the game it’s not as intense.

Steven Gerrard Rangers Celtic Scottish Premiership January 4, 2020

Steven and Rafa for those 90 minutes will desperately want to win, and do one over on the other, certainly Steven will after being his apprentice! It’s quite a frightening thought, but nice as well.

Rafa for Celtic would be absolutely great. He’s been in some places, different leagues, and to come back a little closer to home to Glasgow, would be great.

He’s still got ambitions in the Premier League, I believe, and I wonder if some of those teams can see that he is interested and available and isn’t taking a sabbatical, whether they’d have a look at him and that could actually be the thing that Celtic are up against.

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