Benitez brought Leiva to Anfield in 2007, and speaking to liverpoolfc.com, the Brazilian explained how his former manager has had such a big influence on his career:
“Rafa always supported me and was very important for me in the time he was here. I will always be grateful for what he has done for me."
Liverpool host Newcastle United today in the 3pm kick-off, but Leiva insists there will be no time for sentiments during the 90 minutes:
"When the referee blows the whistle, we need to play for Liverpool and try to get three points. When the game starts we have to play for our shirt, our fans and our club. After the game finishes, for sure we will be able to talk and share good moments again.”
Liverpool haven't entirely given up hope of a Champions League spot as they sit 10 points behind third placed Manchester City with two games in hand.
It is arguably a bigger game for the visitors, however, who are two points adrift from safety in 19th position in the league.
Leiva went on to describe how Benitez helped him settle in Merseyside when he was just 20-years-old:
“I remember talking to him on the phone. He called me a couple of times and called my father a few times. I was only 20 at that time so it was a very special period before I signed with Liverpool. I had some very difficult moments at the beginning here, and he really supported me."
Jürgen Klopp has transformed the Anfield club since his appointment earlier on in the season, and a win today would keep up their positive momentum ahead of their crucial Europa League semi-final against Villarreal on Thursday.