As for Saturday’s final in Kiev, Benitez will not predict the score, but he cannot avoid dropping a hint as to who he thinks will win. If Liverpool can replicate the intensity and speed of their play against Manchester City and Roma, he suspects an ageing Real Madrid team will struggle to contain them.
“The difference between the Premier League and the other leagues is the intensity of the games,” he added. “Liverpool and their offensive players, their midfielders, their defence have the intensity to hurt you if they do it well.
“On the other side, Real Madrid have experience and they have some good players. It will be interesting. On one side, you will see a Liverpool team with lots of passion and intensity and a lot of pressing and crossing and fast counter-attacking against a team with a lot of the qualities needed to manage this kind of situation.
“Real Madrid has the experience and the quality to match them, but Liverpool can do it. They have the intensity and the quality, the passion, the desire. They talk about the miracle of Istanbul, but this team is better.
Benitez would love to take part in another Champions League final, but he has a different club and different goals now. Despite the slow progress in negotiations to extend his contract at St James’ Park, Benitez is well aware that, winning a trophy for Newcastle – their first since 1969 – will ensure that he is immortalised on the banks of another famous English river.
“I would like to win any trophy again, we have to win something,” he finishes, leaning back, with arms outstretched, palms facing the sky. “At 58, I am not young but not old. I’m still young enough, I still have time.
“But I want to be sure that we can compete at Newcastle, that we can find something to compete for and try and win something.”
If he fails, if he cannot end English football’s most famous infamous trophy drought, he will always have that night in Istanbul. This is Klopp’s chance to grab a seat alongside him.