THE WIFE of Liverpool FC boss Rafael Benitez has spoken of her love of Wirral life, declaring: “This is where I belong now.”

Montse Benitez and her manager husband were speaking in an extraordinarily candid radio interview about their four years living on the peninsula.

“I love my life here,” she said. “My friends, the club… this is actually now my place.

“If I go back now to Spain, my friends have their own lives, my family the same. There’s no connection, actually. I feel a stranger there and here is where I belong now.”

Montse and Rafa, who live with their two young daughters in a hillside mansion in Caldy with magnificent views over the River Dee, said it was the support shown to them by ordinary people during troubled times at the football club last year that sealed their love affair with Merseyside.

Twelve months ago Rafa was embroiled in a high-profile row with Liverpool’s controversial American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett over an apparent lack of transfer funds.

There were suggestions the popular Spaniard might even quit his post – until a groundswell of support from Anfield fans erupted almost overnight.

“We can’t forget last year,” she said. “In 24 hours we had 50,000 signatures supporting Rafa, and you can’t forget it.

“You can’t forget the people who send you letters, congratulating you, saying thank you. I keep all of them and if I can, I call them, because we're here because of them and you can’t forget that. Everybody helped us so much to settle down.”

Of their two young daughters, aged six and nine, she said: “My girls now are English girls. They speak English all the time. They feel English.

“When they go to Spain they feel like ‘oh, we are out of place here’. Their accent is a northern one and for the little one I would say Scouse. She uses Scouse words.

“I remember one day I was in the hall and she was with Rafa. She was hungry and she was asking for a butty, and was saying: ‘Daddy, I want a butty!’ And Rafa was giving her a pair of boots! She kept saying ‘butty, butty’, but he kept thinking she was asking for boots, and then she opened the fridge, and Rafa was completely lost!”

The family has recently returned from a three week visit to Spain, and Montse said: “The first two weeks were great, but the third one, I was desperate to come home. Yes, this is my home. I am really happy here.

“I don’t want to move to any other place. I think maybe that’s my age – I’m getting older!

“But I’ve found that at a certain time in life you need to settle down and just live there. And I believe that Rafa and myself have found the right place for us, and for our children to grow up and have a life.”

Also in the interview – conducted by Steve Hothersall, match commentator for Radio City and City Talk stations – Montse, whose family now live in opulent surroundings, recalls when life was very different.

“We tell our daughters that when we were first married we lived in a very tiny flat,” she said. “We couldn’t even be in the kitchen at the same time.

“You mustn’t forget where you are from. We are now here because we worked hard and also we have a big, big city and the supporters who have made this, and who had helped Rafa in the hard times.”

Montse says away from his high-profile, high pressure job, Rafa is just a regular Wirral dad who walks the dog in the Caldy countryside in his shorts and flip flops.

"He's no handyman!" she says. "If he tries to hang a picture, you will end up with a big hole in the wall”.

His favourite TV shows are comedies like Only Fools and Horses, My Family and Father Ted – and a great deal of football, of course.

She insists they live a regular life away from football, however, with regular trips out with their daughters.

“We go with the girls to have lunch and things like that. We go to the cinema. There are always two or three people who ask for a photograph or an autograph, but that’s all. People respect your private life a lot.

“Nobody’s a problem. He comes to the schoolgates with me, and into school, and maybe he plays football with the schoolboys.

“They see him as a clown, and that is that – nothing more than ‘Rafa’. Where we live is the same – he is Rafa, wearing his shorts and trainers walking the dog, not Rafael Benitez the football manager.

“He talks to everybody at Tesco or other shops. He’s like another neighbour in the place. He talks about football, yes, but he talks about football the same as the rest of the men when they go to the pub for a drink.”

During the hour-long interview – which can be heard in its entirety online at - Rafa, 48, is asked how he feels about the adulation heaped upon him and comparisons in some quarters to Liverpool legends Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley.

He said: “I feel that I am maybe miles away from Paisley or Shankly or all these great managers.

“Hopefully in the future, but in this moment, I am really pleased but I need to win more trophies to be at the same level.”

Montse, after ushering her famous husband out of the room for a few moments, added: “That’s a good thing. Sometimes we talk and we remember how our life was ten years ago. We remember where we come from.

“He comes from a very hard-working neighbourhood in Madrid and both of us know what it’s like to work hard.

“We know what it means to wake up at 7am in the morning, go to work. You must remember that because you never know what is going to happen in life.

“Maybe one day everything changes, and we will need the help of the people at the moment who are down, or in a different position.

“You never know in life what’s going to happen. It’s very important to keep your feet on the ground, and know where you come from, and stay there.”

Summing up life as LFC manager and a Wirral resident, Rafa himself commented: “It is so important for us, for my family, for me. It changed something in my life.

“We were in Tenerife, Valencia, I was in Madrid before… we were very pleased in all those towns, the people were really good to us… but especially here.

“In the crucial times when you have big, big problems, the people are behind you and that is something that you cannot forget.

“So, I think it is more than a club when you normally talk about clubs. For us it’s more than a club, and the fans are more than just supporters.

“They are part of our life now.”