Yossi Benayoun has stated, in no uncertain terms, that Rafa Benitez was the single reason he left Liverpool. The Israeli midfielder has signed a four and a half year deal with Chelsea and this weekend accused Benitez of trying to ‘break’ him as a player.
“Everyone asks me why I left Liverpool,” said Benayoun. “There is only one reason – Rafa Benitez. If I played well, I never felt he gave me credit. When I scored, I still expected to be out of the team the next game. On two occasions early last season, against Fulham and Lyon, the fans booed when I was subbed. They thought I was playing well but Benitez told me he was surprised the fans booed because I was not good enough.”
Benitez’s man management came under scrutiny during his time in England with many commenting that his calculated and mechanical style stifled players who were more receptive to encouragement and motivation. Benayoun went on to claim that Benitez intentionally tried breaking his confidence as a player and intimated the same thing happened to Spanish winger Albert Riera:
“He tried to destroy my confidence. You can’t treat a player like this and expect him to be happy. I don’t want to speak on behalf of other players at Liverpool, but people know what happened to Albert Riera and Xabi Alonso. It was the same for me. Benitez tried to break me like he broke Riera.”
Whilst there is no smoke without fire and repeated criticisms of Benitez’s man management can lead us to safely assume he doesn’t put an arm around his players when they’re down, we shouldn’t conclude that Benayoun’s words paint the whole picture (or even if his reported words are the truth, depending on your level of cynicism with regards to our country’s press). The only discernable truth about the situation is that this is a prime opportunity to criticise Benitez; he’s left England and Benayoun has secured a move to the current champions, Chelsea. But my question is why didn’t Benayoun seek a move earlier? And is a four year deal at Chelsea really the choice that optimises his playing time?
I do feel Benayoun was not utilised as often as he could have been in his last two seasons at Liverpool but I cannot completely subscribe to the idea that a manager – any manager – would intentionally seek to break a player’s confidence and thus damage their future as a top flight professional. Many of Liverpool’s players commented that Benitez had a style of management that took some getting used to i.e. he didn’t shower individuals with praise after good performances. This did not stop Alonso, Mascherano, Gerrard, Torres, Reina and Carragher to all excel under his stewardship, though. Benayoun, like Babel and Riera, suffered more because he could not sustain a place in the starting XI and whether that is down to managerial preference or objective output will remain a mystery to most of us.
There’s certainly some truth in his sentiments but his circumstance as a squad player makes it a little easier to blame Benitez outright.
If you enjoyed this, you can follow me on Twitter