The dust has settled on Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool era. Remember him? The man that guided an average Liverpool team to the promise land of European glory. The man that brought one of the best strikers in the world to Merseyside, and the only manager to find Steven Gerrard’s much debated ‘best position’. But 5 years after the Champions League win, the Spaniard couldn’t do a thing right.
Every Torres substitution, every free signing, and the increased quality of Premiership opposition was blamed on Rafa. Yes he made same bad buys. Yes he made some surprising team selections. And yes, the ‘Rafa rant’ did him no favours. But can this add up to a bad manager? A manager that pundits and the media alike, slated day in day out for not winning every honour in football.
Previous to the Spanish armada anchoring at the Albert Dock, Gerard Houllier had won a six trophies with the Reds, a difficult manager to follow. I think you’ll agree Rafa’s first season eclipsed him. Big players arrived. Real Liverpool players. Alonso, Mascherano, Garcia, Torres, Reina. Houllier could never attract these players, and unfortunately current boss Roy Hodgson may not either.
Regarding Rafa’s “unknown young signings”. There is a reason Rafa signed Lucas, and it’s not because he thinks he’s the best in the world. As a Liverpool fan, I would love to have seen him buy David Villa instead. One problem, money. Trust me, Rafa would have bought the best out there, if he could afford them. Give Rafa £5 million to spend, you get Lucas. Give him £30 million, you get Villa. Simple. Question the owners about cheap, second rate buys. And if you’re lucky enough to catch up with Americans answer to Pinky and the Brain, ask them about our new stadium too.
If nothing else, a man regularly courted by Real Madrid, Juventus and Inter Milan must be doing something right. Other managers have jumped ship when players were brought behind their back. Or if owners promise transfer money that never appears. Not to mention ask Jurgen Klinsmann (of all people!) to take over your job behind your back. Combine these with being wanted by Europe’s elite, and nobody could blame him for leaving. Not Rafa. Unquestioned loyalty and passion until the day he was forced out the exits of Anfield.
2009/2010 was disappointing for Liverpool and changes were needed. But let’s not forget Istanbul, beers with the fans in Leverkusen, and the textbook goatee. After all, “I am talkin’ about…facts, Mr Ferguson”.
Written By Rob Edwards