Basketball legend Michael Jordan used to thrive on opponents taunts and abuse. He would use them as motivation to prove them wrong. To throw their words right back at them. For Jordan that abuse was critical currency in his desire to find an edge. That extra something, to take his game to another level.
Cricketers around the world would never, for example, get under Australian legend Steve Waugh’s skin. For they knew, that if they wound Waugh up, with ill-advised sledging, it would only serve to increase his focus and determination. So wisely, opposing fielders learnt to keep quiet when Waugh came to the crease.
Perhaps Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, will be reflecting on this fact this morning. For in the build up to last nights Champions League encounter with Chelsea, Benitez highlighted the tendency of Didier Drogba to dive. Benitez’s strategy was designed to both get into the mind of the referee, and Drogba.
Well, Benitez certainly got into Drogba’s mind. But, perhaps not in the way he intended. For last night Drogba appeared highly focused and determined. His two goals taking Chelsea into their first Champions League Final. And afterwards, he admitted that Benitez’s words had fired him up. He even had a picture of Benitez pinned up in the home dressing room.
For Benitez it’s an unusual psychological error. He is normally so thorough and precise in his preparation. In pinpointing Drogba, he took a calculated gamble. For he could not be absolutely certain, what effect his words would have. In other words he took a risk. And it backfired.
There has been too much loose talk around Anfield this season. Most of the time, Benitez has risen above it. But this week, it looked like even the Spanish perfectionist, lost his immunity from the careless talk virus.