Rafa Benitez has refused to rule out returning to Liverpool as manager before he retires.
Kopites have often called for the Spaniard, who left Anfield seven years ago, to be given a second stint in charge.
Clamour especially came after Kenny Dalglish was sacked in 2012, before Brendan Rodgers was appointed.
A year later, Benitez, who still lives with his family in the Wirral, admitted he will “almost certainly” manage Liverpool again one day.
And while the Newcastle boss, 57, is no longer quite so adamant, he still thinks it could happen.
Tomorrow Benitez hosts a visiting Liverpool side for the first time since his sacking.
And asked if he has ever been close to a Reds return, he said: “It hasn’t come at the right time. Sometimes they have problems and you are unavailable, or sometimes you are available and they are doing well.
“So I didn’t have too many chances to go back — but it is football so you never know. I am getting older but for a manager I am still young so we’ll see what happens.”
Benitez, though, added: “It is all in the future — I don’t want any, ‘Rafa wants to go back’. It is nothing like that because I am happy here at Newcastle. I want to do well here and I wish Jurgen Klopp a lot of success.”
Benitez understands why some Liverpool supporters still long for him to go back, given the success he enjoyed during his six-year Anfield spell.
The 2005 Champions League winner added: “We won four trophies, three finals and some semi-finals in a short period.
“If you see the money we spent and the money they are spending in the last years, then the fans appreciate that.”
Benitez has found that same level of appreciation from Newcastle supporters since he was appointed in March 2016.
And he admitted: “There are a lot of similarities between the two cities, the two sets of fans. They’re very passionate and support the team even when things go wrong. They’re hard working cities — and both accents are hard for me to understand!”
Given his bond with both clubs, Benitez says tomorrow will be a “special game” but hopes Newcastle can take advantage of what he describes as Liverpool’s “short blanket”.
He explained: “The reality is that because they are so offensive, they sometimes have problems in defence.
“I have talked in the past about the short blanket — if you cover your head, your feet are cold. But if you cover your feet, your head is cold.
“Sometimes when you attack too much, you are exposed in defence. To find the balance is the key to have chances to win titles. But I think they are working on that. They will be very dangerous attacking even if they make some mistakes in defence.”
Benitez has also denied talk he is about to start negotiations over a new Toon contract.
His current deal expires at the end of next season and he added: “We are not talking about that. I have a contract so it’s not an issue now for me.
“It’s not something that will change my approach, or that I will be more comfortable if I sign a 20-year contract.”
Meanwhile another former Anfield man, Jonjo Shelvey, has apologised to Benitez and his team-mates for the “moment of madness” which cost him his place in the team.
The midfielder, 25, was sent off for a stamp on Dele Alli during the opening-day defeat by Tottenham and has paid the price since completing his ban.
He has been used only as a substitute in the club’s last two games and he hopes that situation will change today.
Shelvey has consulted a psychologist over his anger management issues.
He told NUFC TV: “You can learn from anything, but I couldn’t tell to this day what I was doing.
“It was just a moment of madness, an error that I’ve apologised for. I let down myself, but more importantly I let my team-mates down.”
Shelvey has had to sit by and watch summer signing Mikel Merino establish himself in Newcastle’s midfield and he is still bristling about some of what has been written and said about him.
He snapped: “You just get people chatting a load of rubbish about you, to be honest. But you don’t listen to them.”